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Jackie’s Warrior Outduels Life Is Good In H. Allen Jerkens Thriller
Credit: NYRA / Chelsea Durand

Jackie’s Warrior Outduels Life Is Good In H. Allen Jerkens Thriller

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Saturday’s renewal of the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) at Saratoga ended in a thrilling finish between top favorites Jackie’s Warrior and Life Is Good that became an instant classic.

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Jackie’s Warrior broke from post 2 under Joel Rosario as the 3/2 second choice to Life Is Good, the 4/5 favorite under Mike Smith who exited post 6 in his first start since winning the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park March 6.

Life Is Good outkicked his inner rival for sole command and set a measured tempo while racing a lane off the rail down the backstretch and into the far turn, where he briefly opened up.

Rosario put Jackie’s Warrior to a vigorous hand ride while cornering that encouraged the Steve Asmussen trainee to reengage Life Is Good at the top of the stretch, and the 3-year-old superstars threw down all the way to the wire.

Ultimately, Jackie’s Warrior surged inside Life Is Good and held a slim advantage that was ruled a neck as they completed the event in 1:21.39.

“He broke really well and it looked like Life Is Good was very speedy too, so I decided to stay where I was,” Rosario said. “(Jackie’s Warrior) is a nice horse and ran a tremendous race. I felt confident, but Life Is Good was not giving up and a lot of credit to him, too. It was a very good race.”

Jackie’s Warrior (right) defeats Life Is Good in the Jerkens (Credit: NYRA)

Life Is Good’s loss was the first in a career that began auspiciously in California before an injury sidelined him from the Kentucky Derby Trail. Smith, his regular rider out west, flew in to ride him and was overall happy with how the colt returned to racing.

“He never stops trying,” Smith said. “It was his first race back. We’re asking him to run against probably the best sprinters in the country, if not the world, to be honest with you right now, and for him to run like he did, it was pretty incredible. I would like to have been able to just gear him down a little bit more down the backside, but he’s very aggressive and every movement you make, he feels it and he responds to it. If you try to grab him, he runs on you, he pulls more and wants to get out, so you got to really be sensitive with it and I thought he ran great for his first race back, I really did.”

It was 8 3/4 lengths back to Following Sea, Life Is Good’s stablemate in the Todd Pletcher barn. Drain the Clock, Newbomb, and Judge N Jury completed the strung-out order of finish.

Jackie’s Warrior’s win was his second straight following the Amsterdam Stakes (G2), the local prep for this event, and improved the Maclean’s Music son’s record to 10-7-1-1 with $1,333,964 earned.

““This horse is incredible,” Asmussen said. “The thing you just love about him is his demeanor and the way he goes about everything that he does. We breezed Jackie and Yaupon (winner of the Forego [G1] a race prior) together 12 or 13 days ago and the way that they handled it and the way they came back from it gives you all kinds of confidence. I think they both ran their race and showed their Grade 1 ability against great fields and on Travers Day. What could be better?”

Jackie’s Warrior returned $5.10 to win, $2.30 to place, and $2.10 to show. Life Is Good brought back $3.10 to place and $2.30 to show. Following Sea paid $2.60to show.

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