Saratoga Race Course

Jack Christopher gets back to sprinting in Grade I Allen Jerkens

Allen Jerkens favorite Jack Christopher, left, breezes in company at Saratoga on Aug. 13.

Allen Jerkens favorite Jack Christopher, left, breezes in company at Saratoga on Aug. 13.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – It’s easy to point to Jack Christopher’s career debut at Saratoga Race Course almost a year ago to the day as the first indication that he could turn into a brilliant racehorse.

Jack Christopher won by 8 3/4 lengths under Jose Ortiz and went on to win the first four starts of his career by a combined 25 1/4 lengths. 

Trainer Chad Brown takes it back even before that Saratoga maiden race to what convinced him that he had an extraordinary racehorse on his hands..

“I thought I had an unbelievably freaky talent the first time I saw him work three furlongs, to be honest, which is rare,” he said Thursday morning. “I’m not trying to be chesty about it, but I wouldn’t tell you that but for five horses that I’ve ever trained, that I could tell off their first work.”

Jack Christopher gets back to work as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the seven-furlong Grade I Allen Jerkens on Travers Day Saturday.

He reached a crossroads in his career when Brown sent him to the nine-furlong $1 million Haskell Invitational, with the idea that the colt might be comfortable stretching out in distance and become a candidate for the mile-and-a-quarter Travers. Jack Christopher ran well, but suffered his first career defeat, with a third to Cyberknife.

So it was back to shorter distances for the chestnut son of Munnings, who also won his career debut at Saratoga and was shifted back to sprints after a third in the Haskell.

“He ran very well,” Brown said. “It’s a mile-and-an-eighth race, he went three quarters in 1:09 and wasn’t beat that far. So he ran a hell of a race. I’m just happy that he survived it, because that was a pretty grueling race.

“He’s never disappointed me in a workout or a race.”

Jack Christopher stamped himself as one of the best 3-year-old colts in the country without having run in any of the legs of the Triple Crown.

He dominated the one-mile Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park to close out his 2-year-old campaign, then was slow to kick off his 2022 season, but came back in style, winning the Grade II Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day. He followed that up with a 10-length win in the seven-furlong Grade I Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day.

Some of the bigger graded stakes at the meet have drawn short fields, but Jack Christopher will face eight rivals in the Allen Jerkens.

“It’s a very prestigious race, nice purse, there’s a lot on the line here, so people are going to take their shot,” Brown said.

Among the eight is Jack Christopher’s stablemate, Accretive, who has been a regular workout partner with Preakness winner Early Voting, who is running in the Travers.

Accretive was second to Gunite in the six-furlong Grade II Amsterdam on July 31, just Accretive’s second lifetime start.

“He could get a good set-up in that race,” Brown said. “His biggest challenge will be coming back on four weeks off a tough race. For a lightly raced horse, that’s a challenge.”

Gunite, one of several offspring of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner owned by Ron Winchell and trained by Steve Asmussen, is a grinder who won the Hopeful on closing day of the 2021 Saratoga meet.

He was fifth in the Champagne, 14 1/2 lengths behind Jack Christopher.

“He was considerably faster than Gunite was in their only meeting in the Champagne, but they’re coming into this race on a different day and under different circumstances,” Asmussen said. “He isn’t worried about if anybody’s picking him or not. He won the Hopeful at 11-1. Hopeful winner back in the Amsterdam, and I think he was fourth choice in there. But he shows up and gives a very good effort, and he has trained very well since the Amsterdam.”

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