Jackie's Warrior Toys With True North Foes; Asmussen Eyes Vanderbilt, Forego At Saratoga - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Jackie’s Warrior Toys With True North Foes; Asmussen Eyes Vanderbilt, Forego At Saratoga

True North winner Jackie’s Warrior gets a pat on the neck from jockey Joel Rosario

Kirk and Judy Robison's reigning sprint champion Jackie's Warrior added to his growing resume with an eased-up daylight victory over five overmatched foes in Friday's Grade 2 True North Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

With Joel Rosario a statue in the saddle except for an occasional backwards peek, Jackie's Warrior cruised to the wire five lengths in front of runner-up Sound Money, with War Tocsin another seven lengths back in third and Baby Yoda fourth, Mr Phil fifth and Night Time last in the field of six older runners.

A 4-year-old by Maclean's Music out of Unicorn Girl, by A.P. Five Hundred, Jackie's Warrior sped 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.09 and paid $2.50 as the 1-5 favorite. The time was three-fifths of a second off the track record of 1:14.46 set by Wesley Ward-trained Bear Fan in the 2004 Vagrancy Handicap.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said Jackie's Warrior will be pointed toward two Grade 1 Saratoga sprint stakes this summer: the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 30 and the Forego Stakes on Aug. 27.

“It's as simple as he's very fast,” said Asmussen. “It's a race and he's a very fast horse that has a tremendous amount of poise and confidence about himself. How he's handling races and all three of his runs this year, he's eased up late [with] good separation from them.

“He exudes confidence in the mornings and knows what he's doing, he enjoys it. I loved him in the post parade, just walked as far as they wanted and as soon as they started off, he just gave it a little play like 'Let's do this.' He broke nice and smooth, very relaxed. The separation he gets without being asked is beautiful. He's so rhythmic watching him run.

“Joel [Rosario] as a jockey lets them be who they are extremely well. He's ridden him since his second race continuously and the success they have at a high level and the attitude and approach the horse has compliment each other. It's allowed them both to get to this point.”

The True North was the 11th win from 15 career starts for Jackie's Warrior, whose breeding rights were purchased by Spendthrift Farm during October of his 2-year-old season after winning the G1 Champagne Stakes. He had earlier won the  G2 Saratoga Special and G1 Runhappy Hopeful.

Last year at 3,  after Jackie's Warrior finished third in the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, his second consecutive defeat around two turns, Asmussen decided to focus on one-turn races going forward. He won four of his next six though ending the season on a disappointing note with a sixth-place finish in the G1 Breeders' Cup Sprint. He had still done enough to convince Eclipse Awards voters that he was North America's best male sprinter.

Jackie's Warrior returned in 2022 to win the G3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn, then ran away to a four-length score in the G1 Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby day.

In the True North, War Tocsin broke on top but was quickly overtaken by Jackie's Warrior. Mr Phil raced up and engaged Jackie's Warrior from the inside through an opening quarter mile in :22.83. Approaching the far turn, Jackie's Warrior asserted himself, taking command through a half mile in :45.52 while racing well off the rail. Turning into the stretch, the only question that remained was how much the winning margin would be and how fast Jackie's Warrior would cover the distance. He clicked off a 1:08.68 fraction for six furlongs and spent the final half furlong being geared down by his rider.

“It took a little time to get him going, but he was just doing his thing after that,” said Rosario. “He's a special horse. I just sat and let him do his thing and he's unbelievable. He means everything. So many great memories. He's a special horse. He's very smart and fast and he's on my list as one of the top horses [I've ridden].

“I looked back and was so far in front and decided to save some for the next one. He's special. You can see I never showed the stick. He did it all on his own.”

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