Edited NYRA Staff Release — Kirk and Judy Robison’s reigning champion male sprinter Jackie’s Warrior was hand ridden by Joel Rosario to a two-length victory in Saturday’s $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the 4-year-old Maclean’s Music bay captured his fifth career Grade 1 score and unprecedented third in successive seasons at Saratoga, following wins in the 2020 Runhappy Hopeful and last year’s H. Allen Jerkens Memorial. Jackie’s Warrior’s Grade 1 ledger also includes a win in the Champagne as a juvenile at Belmont Park and the Churchill Downs this May at its namesake track on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
“I was made aware that if he wins today, he’s the only horse ever to win a Grade 1 three years in a row at Saratoga,” Asmussen said. “Saratoga – the great racehorses that have won here and he’s the only one to do that. I just can’t say how much I have wanted that for him and am proud of it and Jackie’s Warrior has done it.
“He’s the whole package,” Asmussen added. “He just has a tremendous amount of ability and confidence in himself. A game horse.”
According to Equibase records, which date to 1976, Jackie’s Warrior’s five Spa stakes wins, which includes a score in the 2020 Grade 2 Saratoga Special, put him on equal terms with Irish Linnet for the second-most stakes wins at Saratoga – just one behind the illustrious Fourstardave.
Jackie’s Warrior, carrying a field-high 127 pounds, broke alertly from post 4 but allowed Doc Amster, who exited the outermost post 6 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, to mark the opening quarter-mile in :22.39 over the fast main track with Willy Boi tracking in third.
Rosario gave Jackie’s Warrior his cue through the turn and the silky-striding bay pounced to the lead to the outside of his rival through a half-mile in :45.17, drawing clear by 4 1/2-lengths at the stretch call en route to a facile score in a final time of 1:09.74.
Kneedeepinsnow rallied from last-of-6 under Ricardo Santana Jr. to earn place honors by three lengths over the Chantal Sutherland-piloted Willy Boi. Rounding out the order of finish were Grade 1-placed New York-bred Ny Traffic, Doc Amster and Long Range Toddy.
The victory marked a record fourth Alfred G. Vanderbilt score for Asmussen following past success with Majesticperfection , Justin Phillip , and Volatile .
Asmussen said the build up to Saturday’s record-setting score was intense.
“All kinds of jitters. Beyond belief,” Asmussen said. “I wanted this more than you’re supposed to want things. Immortality, a record like that. We owe everything we have to these horses and when one comes along as special as him, you go through the crowd and see all the fans he has. He’s the only horse to have ever done that and I’m so proud of him and the whole team. You can’t imagine how much this horse means to the barn.”
Rosario picked up his sixth stakes win at the Spa summer meet, adding to scores with In Italian [Grade 1 Diana], Clairiere [Grade 2 Shuvee], Kimari [Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap], City Man [Grade 3 Forbidden Apple], and Big Invasion [Grade 3 Quick Call].
“It was all him. He’s a special horse and thanks to Steve and all the people who own him. [I’m] thankful for the opportunity,” Rosario said. “These horses don’t come like that every day and he’s just incredible. The six horse [Doc Amster] wanted the lead for a little bit, I took him [Jackie’s Warrior] outside and it looked like he didn’t mind that. [We] got into the turn and he wanted to go and do his thing and he just loves to run. He felt comfortable, so I just let him be and see where he was happy.”
Matt Shirer, trainer of runner-up Kneedeepinsnow, said he was surprised to see his horse so far off the pace.
“I don’t know that he really broke that slow, but it just kind of took him a little bit of time to get into stride,” Shirer said. “Once he did at about the three-eighths, he started making a move. I was really happy with the way he ran. I mean, there was no beating Jackie’s Warrior, but at least he closed and came running, and he looked good on the gallop out.”
Jackie’s Warrior has participated in the Breeders’ Cup in each of the past two years, finishing fourth in the Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland and sixth in last year’s Sprint (G1) at Del Mar.
Asmussen said the talented colt, who returned $2.50, is targeting a return engagement in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Keeneland with his next start coming in the $600,000 Forego (G1), a seven-furlong sprint for older horses on August 27 as part of Runhappy Travers Day.
“We expect to run him back here in the Forego and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” Asmussen said. “Those will be his last two races and then he is off to Spendthrift for his stud career.”
Bred in Kentucky by J & J Stables, Jackie’s Warrior is out of the 19-time winning A. P. Five Hundred mare Unicorn Girl. He banked $192,500 in victory, boosting his career bankroll to $2,667,164.