Jackie's Warrior looks to cement himself as leading juvenile colt in Champagne (G1)
by Ryan Martin
J. Kirk and Judy Robison's Jackie's Warrior is a standout in the juvenile division with an unblemished record and will put his perfect resume on the line in Saturday's 148th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Champagne going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park for 2-year-old colts.
The Champagne is one of four Breeders' Cup "Win And You're In" qualifying events slated for Saturday's action-packed 11-race program and offers an automatic entry towards the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 6 at Keeneland. Other "Win And You're In" events scheduled for Saturday include the Grade 1, $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup for older horses going 1 ¼ miles on the main track [Classic]; the Grade 1, $250,000 Frizette for juvenile fillies going one mile on the main track [Juvenile Fillies]; and the Grade 1, $250,000 Flower Bowl Invitational for fillies and mares going 1 ¼ miles over the inner turf [Filly and Mare Turf]. Also featured on the card is the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point for sophomore fillies going one mile over the Widener turf.
Inaugurated in 1867, the Champagne has been a prominent event for young horses having seen a handful of Kentucky Derby winners score in the race during their 2-year-old season dating all the way back to Azra in 1891. Riva Ridge , Foolish Pleasure , Spectacular Bid  as well as Triple Crown winners Count Fleet  and Seattle Slew  won the Champagne before becoming household names. The great Secretariat won the 1972 Champagne but was disqualified for interference with Stop the Music, who was subsequently awarded the victory. The Champagne has also been used as a steppingstone to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with horses like Fly So Free , Timber Country , War Pass , Uncle Mo  and Shanghai Bobby  notching the Champagne-Breeders' Cup Juvenile double.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Jackie's Warrior arrives at the Champagne off a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful on September 7 at Saratoga, where he registered a 95 Beyer Speed Figure - the highest number recorded by a 2-year-old this year. In his prior effort, the bay son of Maclean's Music won his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 7 at the Spa by three lengths after displaying stalking tactics in his debut at Churchill Downs, which he won by 2 ½ lengths.
Jackie's Warrior has been getting acclimated to Belmont Park, recently breezing a half-mile in 50.54 over the Belmont training track on October 4.
"He handles everything well," said Asmussen's Belmont Park-based assistant trainer Toby Sheets. "Just like his races are, that's how he is. He's done everything very professionally and he's very straightforward. I don't see the mile being an issue at all."
Jockey Joel Rosario, who guided Practical Joke to a 2016 Champagne win, will return to the saddle from post 4.
Asmussen also will be represented by Winchell Thoroughbreds' Midnight Bourbon, who was a recent second in the Grade 3 Iroquois on September 5 at Churchill Downs going a one-turn mile.
"He came in on Saturday, had a little [three-furlong] blowout [in 39.22 seconds] here on Tuesday," Sheets said. "He's another well-built, big horse. He's figuring it out a little bit, but he's been doing really well."
The well-bred Midnight Bourbon is the fourth offspring out of the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, whose other progeny are Grade 1-winner Girvin and graded stakes winners Pirate's Punch and Cocked and Loaded.
"Let's hope that trend continues," Sheets said.
Midnight Bourbon will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 6.
Hopeful runner-up Reinvestment Risk will try and turn the tables on Jackie's Warrior while attempting to give trainer Chad Brown and owner Klaravich Stables their third Champagne victory.
The son of freshman sire Upstart dazzled in his career debut with a 7 ¾-length victory at the Spa over next-out winner Olympiad. He recorded a 90 Beyer in his debut, a figure which he replicated in his runner-up finish to Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful.
"He's doing super. I'm looking forward to getting him out another furlong. He'll have no problem with more distance," Brown said.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. has been the pilot in both of the bay colt's lifetime starts and will return to the saddle from post 5.
Reddam Racing's Ambivalent is the lone maiden in the field but boasts stakes experience on the west coast for trainer Doug O'Neill.
The dark bay son of leading second-crop sire Constitution was recently third beaten a length over the grass in the one-mile Del Mar Juvenile Turf on September 7.
Following a runner-up effort on debut on June 21 at Santa Anita, Ambivalent was beaten 1 ¼ lengths before being disqualified from third to fourth in the Grade 2 Best Pal on August 8 at Del Mar.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the mount from post 1.
Rounding out the field are Run Casper Run [post 2, Jose Lezcano] and Civil War [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche].
The Champagne is slated as Race 4 on Saturday's 11-race program, which offers a first post of 12:20 p.m. Eastern. America's Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the 27-day fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America's Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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