(Shancelot was impressive in G2 Amsterdam. Can he win the G1 H. Allen Jerkens? / Photo by Coglianese & Courtesy of NYRA)
Shancelot, dominant winner of the Grade 2 Amsterdam in his most recent outing, returns to Saratoga Race Course to head a field of nine entered in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy.
The H. Allen Jerkens, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds, is one of seven stakes on Saturday’s card, which is topped by the 150th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
The “Mid-Summer Derby” will be televised live on FOX from 5-6 p.m. Eastern. Undercard coverage will also be televised on a special Travers Day edition of Saratoga Live, airing nationally on FS2 from 11:30-5 p.m. ET. Regional coverage of Saturday’s Saratoga Live can be found on MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket and Altitude.
In the 6 ½-furlong Amsterdam on July 28, Shancelot went straight to the lead and extended his advantage at every call, running clear to a 12 ½-length victory under jockey Emisael Jaramillo’s drive. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 121 for the effort, the top figure in North America so far in 2019.
The victory was so impressive that trainer Jorge Navarro needed to pick a race that happened two years before he was born in order to draw a comparison.
“I will never see that again,” said Navarro, who conditions Shancelot for Ivan Rodriguez and Albert and Michelle Crawford. “The last time I saw something like that was Secretariat. I will be lucky if he runs like that again. I knew he was good, but I didn’t expect anything that amazing.”
Shancelot is unbeaten in three starts, having also won a seven-furlong maiden special weight by a neck in February at Gulfstream Park and an entry-level six-furlong optional claimer by 6 ¼ lengths in June at Monmouth Park.
Navarro reported that Shancelot emerged from his Amsterdam performance in good shape. The Shanghai Bobby colt worked twice at Monmouth Park following the Amsterdam, breezing four furlongs in 49.40 on August 11 and six furlongs in 1:11 on Sunday.
“He’s come back and worked good,” said Navarro. “It’s amazing how he came out of the race. It’s always a good sign when they are back in the feed tub the day after the race.”
Emisael Jaramillo will once again ride Shancelot, who drew post position 1.
Nitrous, runner-up in both the Amsterdam and the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, will attempt to go one better in the Jerkens. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, the deep closer won the listed Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn in April before missing by a neck in the Woody Stephens, contested at the Jerkens’ seven-furlong distance June 8 at Belmont Park.
As a 2-year-old, Nitrous made two starts at Saratoga, breaking his maiden in his second start and finishing third in the Grade 1 Hopeful.
“I think he runs solid races here at Saratoga, and seven-eighths of a mile is ideal for him,” said Asmussen. “He’s a horse that, just like [Grade 1 Runhappy Travers entrant] Laughing Fox, how the racetrack is playing will have a lot to do with [his performance].”
Ricardo Santana, Jr. has the call aboard Nitrous from post 5.
Something Special Racing’s Hog Creek Hustle, who made a seven-wide rally from 10th to win the Woody Stephens, will make his Saratoga debut in the Jerkens. The Woody Stephens was the first stakes win for Hog Creek Hustle, who earlier in his career had finished third in the Sugar Bowl at six furlongs at the Fair Grounds, second in the Fair Grounds’ Grade 3 Lecomte around two turns, and second in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs.
“[Seven furlongs] is perfect for him, and as long as he came out of the [Woody Stephens] healthy, the [Jerkens] was the plan,” said trainer Vickie Foley. “We’re running a fresh horse, and we’re ready to go. He had a dynamite work Saturday, :59 and change. And the way he did it was even better. You couldn’t ask the horse to be doing any better.”
Hog Creek Hustle drew post 9 and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.
Also exiting the Woody Stephens is Borracho, who finished third, beaten one length. He returned from that effort to win a second-level optional claimer by 1 ¾ lengths over the Jerkens’ course and distance July 21. Borracho is a son of Uncle Mo, who in 2011 lost the Jerkens (then the King’s Bishop) by a nose to Caleb’s Posse.
“We found out what he wants to do,” said Rusty Arnold, who trains Borracho for Preston Madden. “He wants to sprint. We tried him long a couple of times, and he didn’t like it. We backed him up and sprinted him, and he’s run well. He’s run well up here. We wanted to run in allowance race and we skipped the [Amsterdam], which is a good thing with the way [Shancelot] ran. He’s had a great month up here. He hasn’t missed a day and is doing well. He’s going to run his race back.”
Chris Landeros has the call aboard Borracho from post 4.
The Jerkens field also includes Call Paul, returning to the main track following a seventh in the Grade 3 Quick Call on July 11; Twelfth Labour, winner of an optional claimer June 28 at Churchill Downs; Mind Control, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful last year and third in the Concern on July 14 at Laurel Park; The Big S, fifth in the Grade 2 Amsterdam; and Rowayton, fourth in the Curlin on July 26.
The H. Allen Jerkens is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s 13-race card. First post is 11:35 a.m.