The H. Allen Jerkens Stakes is the first of 6 Graded 1 races on the card for Saturday August 25 at at the Saratoga racecourse. It starts the Pick six and unfortunately, it figures to be a hard bet to win, considering the very competitive fields in every race.
Except on major racing days like the Breeder’s Cup or the Kentucky Derby, it’s rare will you find so many high-quality races run the same day so it is a little bit like Christmas in August for horse racing fans.
This Graded Stakes race pits multiple good horses against one another, though none of them has yet won a Grade 1 stake.
A variety of racing styles mean that the race pace is hard to judge on paper but a couple of horse figure to be able to take advantage of either pace scenarios.
Number 1, PROMISES FULFILLED has failed to fulfill his Grade 1 promises so far in this career, but he does have a couple of Graded stakes wins under his belt, including one at Saratoga last month. In this last race, PROMISES FULFILLED showed more patience than usual and stayed close to the race leader without attempting to overtake him too early. It paid off and PROMISES FULFILLED beat one of today’s opponents, Engage, easily. It was not a particularly hard trip but it was good to see the jockey bide his time as this will probably be the right strategy today: stay close to the lead without going into a suicidal pace war if someone challenges for it. In the prior race, PROMISES FULFILLED went at it too hard early and was beaten by a couple of today’s foes… If he keeps a reasonable pace, he can maybe go all the way or be in best striking position in the stretch.
Number 2 TELEKINESIS, was well beaten in his last race but there is a little less shame in it considering that the beat came from wonder horse Wonder Gadot. TELEKINESIS took a break after that loss and trained very well but he would need to progress a lot to have a chance in this Grade 1 race. The fact that he starts from the inside and will attempt to navigate the distance and the Saratoga race track for the first time are not likely to help. We can expect TELEKINESIS to try to press the pace, but I am not sure that he can go very far with that.
Number 3, ENGAGE comes off losses in two races, both time losing to some of today’s opponents. He has not had a whole lot of success at three years of age and has not won in Graded stakes company since late last year. The workouts look great and the trainer is having an amazing Saratoga season but ENGAGE has a few things working against him. First, he has a come from behind style which is not ideal on this track. Second, he has failed twice on this distance and against today’s opposition. Third, the class is in question as he was never able to repeat a Graded stakes win. ENGAGE could very well grab a place on the podium but I think that he will be outmatched for the win.
Number 4, GIVEMEAMINIT has some strong workouts leading to this one but that’s about it. He has been entered into five straight graded stakes races and has never come close to winning. Winning might not be in his DNA considering that it took him a few tries to break his maiden. Now, it is important to note that the connections visibly have some pretty high expectations for him. He was entered in multiple Grade 1 races at 2 years of age, even before winning a single race… The owners have not chosen an easy path for him… Also interesting, his best race lifetime took place at Saratoga, on this distance. It looks amazingly difficult for GIVEMEAMINIT today though and a win would be a big surprise.
Number 5 SEVENTRUMPETS rested for a little while before this race and that’s a good sign as he seems to like running fresh. He also has some decent workouts in the interim to show so SEVENTRUMPETS is probably ready to give his best. That being said, maybe his best is not enough. He has placed a few times in Graded stakes company but never won despite some chances in which he should have been able to capitalize. He will be trying Saratoga and the distance for the first time, but I think that distance will be ok as he won on just shorter and just linger and Saratoga can work too as he draws one of the best post positions for the start. Still, there are some better horses in the race today and I believe that it is safer to pass.
Number 6, GIDU makes some big changes today, trying the dirt for the first time. It is a bold move by superstar trainer Pletcher and we are left to wonder why he does it. GIDU had raced decently on the turf, winning a couple of ungraded stakes races and placing in Graded company. It could be that the trainer saw an opening with relatively little early speed and wants to see if GIDU can go wire to wire on the harder dirt track? GIDU raced this month already so it is a short turn around that shows some confidence, but the trainer tried this trick a few times and it rarely works. With so much uncertainty, GIDU is too much of a risky bet today.
Number 7, STILL HAVING FUN beat a few of today’s foes in his last race but he was perfectly setup for it as the leaders set a suicidal pace in front and he knows how to close a race. Before that win, STILL HAVING FUN had a bit more trouble and but maybe the connections had just not entered him at the right distance? The workouts leading to this race are pretty good but it was still a pretty long rest for STILL HAVING FUN and the trainer is inexperienced getting back a horse in shape for such an event. If the pace is once again blazing hot, STILL HAVING FUN has a chance, but it looks like the early fractions will be more reasonable today so to I believe that STILL HAVING FUN will just be at the back of the pack all the way.
Number 8, FIRENZE FIRE is coming in hot, having destroyed a Grade 3 field last month and his trainer is not doing too poorly either, with 7 wins in 13 tries this week at Saratoga… the barn is hot and if it brushed onto FIRENZE FIRE, we can expect great things today. The workouts don’t look too hot, but it is important to note that his trainer never pushes the horses too hard in the morning. FIRENZE FIRE can stay close to the lead and pounce in the stretch so it will help him if the pace is a bit hot but he has won in tepid pace too… If FIRENZE FIRE is hot and back at his best, he is a major threat today.
Number 9, FUNNY DUCK surprised many when he won a Graded stakes in May but he might have been helped by the pace that day and did not have so much the same chance since. The pace in this race is not looking to be too favorable to FUNNY DUCK either, so we probably should look at his overall race record to assess his chances. Verdict: It does not look easy. FUNNY DUCK has struggled at the Grade 3 level so winning a Grade 1 against the pace is probably well outside of his reach.
Two horses with different racing style seem to have the best chance today. I see them finishing first and second but in what order, who knows…
If he can keep a moderate pace, PROMISES FULFILLED can go all the way or just overtake the leader in the stretch. That racing style might have been imprinted by the jockey who rides again today so we can expect that this newfound versatility can pay off again today.
If the pace is hotter, FIRENZE FIRE might be able to take advantage in the stretch. He will most likely settle behind the pace and accelerate in the last furlong. The trainer is super-hot and FIRENZE FIRE is probably ready to strike.
WIN BET at 5-2 or more on Number 1 PROMISES FULFILLED
WIN BET at 3-1 or more on Number 8 FIRENZE FIRE
Exacta Box 1-8