Saratoga Race Course

Jack Christopher gets back to winning form in Allen Jerkens

Jack Christopher (6) rolls to victory in the Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga on Saturday.
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Jack Christopher (6) rolls to victory in the Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jack Christopher found his comfort zone again on Saturday.

And he did it on Travers Day, even if it wasn’t in the Travers itself.

Cutting back in distance after having finished a respectable third in the mile-and-an-eighth Haskell Invitational last time out, the most accomplished 3-year-old colt in trainer Chad Brown’s barn added to his sparkling resume by winning the Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

He did so in commanding fashion under jockey Jose Ortiz, rating behind front-runner Conagher and moving to the front at the quarter-pole to roll home for a 1 1/4-length victory over late-running Gunite.

That put Jack Christopher back in familiar territory – the winner’s circle – coming off his only career defeat from six starts.

“Once he broke good and was in control, doing whatever he wanted to do, go to the lead, wait for someone to go, I felt very confident at that point,” Brown said.

“He’s been a very consistent horse and has never disappointed us in a workout or a race. Jose rode just another fantastic race on him. He broke sharp and used good judgment to rate him just a touch. Every pole, he was in control of the race.”

Jack Christopher broke his maiden by 8 3-4 lengths in his career debut at Saratoga last year and had the look of a potential Kentucky Derby horse after winning the one-mile Champagne at Belmont Park in October.

He didn’t make it to that race, but made it to Derby Day and won the Grade I Pat Day Mile, then the Grade I Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day.

Brown stretched him out in distance in the Haskell to see how he would handle it, and even though Jack Christopher ran well, it was clear that getting back to sprints was the way to go.

The Allen Jerkens served that purpose perfectly.

“We just want to see him get back to winning ways, back to form and take it from there,” Brown said. “He’s never really been out of form, he ran great in the Haskell, but to cut him back [in distance] and get him back in the winner’s circle is a good feeling.

“His last workout was very impressive. He looked like he was back. Just exiting the Haskell, a couple weeks after, he was a little stiff, a little tired and I wasn’t quite sure he’d make the race, and then with each week that went by, he started to get stronger, back to his old self and we were very confident coming over today.”

And Ortiz rode Jack Christopher confidently throughout the Allen Jerkens.

Conagher supplied a rival to chase nearby, and Jack Christopher supplied the talent to polish off a convincing victory.

“Four weeks [rest] and he ran huge,” Ortiz said. “He gave me everything he had and a very good race. Honestly, though he was a little offbeat down the backside, but at the three-eighths pole he picked up little by little, and I knew when I got next to the one-horse [Conagher], I knew I got him. From then on he just kept going the same pace. I knew if he didn’t stop, he was going to run them off their feet because he was running the whole way.

“Seven [furlongs] is a tricky distance. I’d rather go a mile, but seven-eighths is tricky. The pace is a little bit faster, and you have to run the whole way there and he did.” 

“He had a nice target, and everything unfolded from that point forward the way we thought it would,” Brown said. “He can run either way, but it’s always nice to have a target.”

Gunite was in familiar territory himself, having run at Saratoga three times, including a victory in the Grade I Hopeful last year and the Grade II Amsterdam on July 31.

“My horse broke alertly,” jockey Tyler Gaffalione said. “We knew there was going to be a little bit of speed to our inside, and we didn’t want to get into a speed duel up front, so we just decided to let him relax a little bit.

“He just kept taking a run at that colt [Jack Christopher]. That’s a very talented colt, the winner, and my horse never gave it up. It was a big effort.”

Categories: At The Track, Sports, Sports

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