Emma’s Encore gives Jerkens a Grade I thrill
SARATOGA SPRINGS That’s one more for the legendary Allen Jerkens.
At 83 years old, he just put his name on another jockey statue outside the clubhouse entrance at Saratoga Race Course, saddling Emma’s Encore for a win in Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Prioress.
“Like the old days,” the Hall of Famer said. “We get to have a jockey in front of the clubhouse again. I always liked to get a jockey in front of the clubhouse.”
The trainer’s title at Saratoga bears his name. He has won four training titles here, the first of those in 1971, and 14 in New York overall, the first of those in 1957.
He has won the Prioress twice before, in 1993 with Classy Mirage and in 2003 with House Party. This time around, Emma’s Encore sat off the pace and closed strongly through the stretch to catch Judy the Beauty at the finish line by a nose.
Judy the Beauty also had bided her time under Joel Rosario, catching favored Agave Kiss in the deep stretch before getting nipped for the win.
“It’s not easy to win, but she ran great,” Rosario said. “The horse that beat me, she’s a nice horse, too. I never thought she would get to me, but she did. But my filly is really nice, and I think if she goes a little farther, she will be even better.”
Agave Kiss finished third, 13⁄4 lengths behind Judy the Beauty. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez could only guess why she backed up in the stretch. Before her fifth-place finish in the Victory Ride in her last start, she had won the first six races of her career, all on the lead.
“I think she ran the way she wanted to run,” he said. “Maybe the other horse [Emma’s Encore] was a little bit better than her right now. Maybe the heat took something out of her.”
It was Junior Alvarado’s second time up on Emma’s Encore. He took over before her last start, a win in the Grade III Victory Ride at Belmont on July 7, in which she beat two of the horses she faced in the Prioress, including Agave Kiss.
“After she won the Victory Ride, I was really confident in her,” Alvarado said. “She broke really good again. I got her to settle and feel comfortable in the race. We tried to save ground, because I knew we were going to be running late. Turning for home, she was moving, but we were wider than I wanted to be. She gave me a really nice kick at the end. She ran really hard to win that race. Approaching the wire, I knew we had it. These last two races have really worked out well for us.”
Alvarado has won 13 times at this meet, including five stakes wins (Evan Shipman, Fleet Indian, Grade II Honorable Miss, John’s Call, Prioress).
Jerkens said, after the scratch of speedy Jamaican Smoke and the way other fast front-runners had held on during the day, the race looked to set up better for Agave Kiss than Emma’s Encore.
Emma’s Encore brought Jerkens his 3,833rd career win and first Grade I win since Aug. 24, 2007, when Miss Shot won the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.
It’s a big win for the biggest horse in his barn. And he keeps coming to that barn in hopes of finding the next big horse.
“Oh sure, [she’s] a lot the best. But one might come up,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have a 2-year-old who might be better. That’s what keeps you going. That’s why you keep getting up every morning, a 2-year-old might come up.”
‘LOVE’ TO WIN
Julie’s Love claimed her first North American stakes race in the $100,000 De La Rose for fillies and mares 3 and older. It was the fourth start for Julie’s Love since coming to North America from Europe, and she is 3-0-1 since making the move.
Dancing to Town led for most of the mile over the turf, but in the final furlong, Julie’s Love surged to the outside of the leader, while favored Dealbata rallied to the inside. Julie’s Love beat the Chad Brown-trained Dealbata to the wire by a half length.