Steve Asmussen had nine horses entered at three different tracks on Sunday, needing five winners to tie Dale Baird’s all-time North American record of 9,445 for career training wins.
It “was a day we felt really live,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen will continue to chase the record on Monday, but to call one of his horses on Sunday “live” was an understatement of the highest order.
Jackie’s Warrior toyed with the field in the Grade II Amsterdam, dueling with Drain the Clock early before coasting away from him to win by 7 1/4 lengths that could’ve been much more if jockey Joel Rosario hadn’t taken his foot off the gas inside the sixteenth pole.
It set up Jackie’s Warrior for the Grade I Allen Jerkens on Travers Day and also bolstered what was already supreme confidence from the Asmussen barn in a 3-year-old colt who has settled into his identity as a one-turn specialist.
“I wouldn’t be scared of running him against anybody, anywhere, going one turn, and how do I measure that? We’ve had some good ones, and he’s one of them,” Asmussen said.
Jackie’s Warrior improved to 6-1-1 from nine career starts and passed a $1 million in career earnings with the Amsterdam win.
He also ran his Saratoga record to 3-for-3, after having won the Grade II Saratoga Special and Grade I Hopeful last year.
Jackie’s Warrior lost his next two — to Essential Quality in both cases — while stretching out in distance to a mile and a sixteenth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and on a sloppy track in the Southwest in February.
At that point, Asmussen pulled him back in distance and to one-turn configurations, and Jackie’s Warrior won the Grade I Pat Day Mile before losing the Woody Stephens at Belmont Park by a neck to Drain the Clock following a rocky start.
“I think it was just one of those things that was meant to be. It got us here,” Asmussen said of the Southwest loss. “He came out of it in good physical shape. Knowing what he can do, and Kirk and Judy Robison are longtime owners that have nothing but respect for the horse and allowed us to be in the position that we’re in now and didn’t press it.
“It’s a situation where, if the racetrack had been favoring towards how he was and he put in a better performance, where would you have ended up? Who knows. I don’t think you evaluate those type of things until the horse’s career is done.”
Jackie’s Warrior got another sloppy track on Sunday — and a 30-minute delay to let a lightning system pass through the area.
Unlike in the Woody Stephens, he and Rosario bolted out of the starting gate, engaged with Drain the Clock and pulled away in dominating fashion down the stretch after a first half-mile that clocked in at 43.85 seconds.
“He broke really well today, better than last time,” Rosario said. “He’s fast, and then he just kept going. That’s what he likes to do.
“It [43.85 half] doesn’t feel like it. He just got out of there and does it so easy. He’s amazing. He’s so fast. It doesn’t even feel like he’s going that fast.”
“We got caught being overly confident last time,” Asmussen said. “I think that he helped him away from there today and held him together, and the horse ran extremely well.
“He did win on an off track today, which is the first time, and to get that variable out of the way, knowing that weather doesn’t care about how important we think something is, that he’ll be able to handle it going forward. His performance, on top of what he did in the Pat Day Mile, he will have a lot to say in the one-turn division the rest of the year.”
Asmussen has a combined eight horses entered at Louisiana Downs, Colonial Downs and Indiana Grand the next two days, so there’s a chance he will have tied or even broken Baird’s record by the time he saddles another horse at Saratoga.
“Any day you have Jackie’s Warrior win the Amsterdam like that, you feel pretty good as a trainer, but we are three wins away, so we’ll have to pick up our slack at Louisiana Downs the next couple days, maybe,” he said with a laugh.
“Who knows, maybe they’ll wait for Silver State in the Whitney.”
More from The Daily Gazette: