As good as Jackie’s Warrior has been throughout his career, he entered Sunday’s $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga with something to prove. He had lost in his only previous meeting with the second choice in the race, Drain the Clock.
That neck defeat in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens (G1) at Belmont Park was effectively erased when the son of Maclean’s Music destroyed his competition with a sprinting masterpiece.
Given that little was settled among the older sprinters in a pair of grade 1 races over the weekend – the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) was won narrowly by 34-1 long shot Lexitonian, while the Bing Crosby (G1) ended in a four-horse photo – Jackie’s Warrior has put his name front and center on top of the list as America’s top male sprinter.
It should come as no surprise that the Steve Asmussen-trained speedster has reached the summit of his division. Only a year ago, the then-undefeated bay colt came to Saratoga off a flashy debut win at Churchill Downs. Two starts at the Spa later, he was the toast of all the nation’s juveniles.
Given a chance to demonstrate that he was best around one turn, Jackie’s Warrior has proven himself a sprinter of unusual ability. Two failed attempts taking on the champion Essential Quality around two turns (a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a third in the Southwest Stakes (G3)) brought him back to Louisville, where it all began for Jackie’s Warrior.
The Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Kentucky Derby undercard remains his only difficult victory, but it was one of the more game performances you are going to see. Hounded through ridiculously fast fractions of :21.75, :43.68, 1:07.97 and 1:20.50, he simply would not let his competition pass him in an absolutely tenacious display.
Proven for toughness, and once again around one turn, Jackie’s Warrior came back five weeks later for the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Going into the race, he had a perfect record around one turn, including four impressive graded stakes wins that included a sensational win in last year’s Champagne (G1) at Belmont.
Once again, Jackie’s Warrior was all racehorse, but a rough break did not help his chances. Last in the opening strides after the bumping, the favorite quickly sped to the lead but could not hold off the talented Drain the Clock in a spirited stretch battle.
The tough loss at Belmont might have added some pre-race drama to yesterday’s Amsterdam, but the bettors were not the least bit worried about Jackie’s Warrior bouncing back. Sent off as a heavy 1-2 favorite in the six-horse field, not even a long delay caused by torrential rain could slow him down.
Ridden by regular rider Joel Rosario, Jackie’s Warrior had no problems at the break this time. He quickly shot to the lead and led through blistering early fractions of 21.46 and 43.85 over the sloppy and sealed track at Saratoga, but the horse who had narrowly defeated him last time at Belmont Park was right with him early on.
Try as he might, though, Drain the Clock could not match strides with the sprinting ability of Jackie’s Warrior for long. The second choice showed his class by holding off the rest for second, but the winner was simply way too good.
The winning margin was 7 1/2 lengths and the final time was 1:15.46, but the impressiveness of the performance was far better than even that.
In a head-and-head battle early with a very fast horse, Jackie’s Warrior dispatched of the challenge and got his revenge. The stretch run proved to be a breeze, as he was on cruise control and ultimately geared down late.
In raising his career record to 9: 6-1-1 with five graded stakes wins and career earnings over a million, Jackie’s Warrior announced himself as the sprinter to beat three months from now at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Things certainly will get tougher when he faces older horses for the first time and even more early speed, but having seen him now in his seven lifetime races at a single turn, it’s difficult to have confidence in any other sprinter in the world other than Jackie’s Warrior.