By J.N. Campbell

The Case of If: Are the Derby “Futures” Bright for Jackie’s Warrior?

By J.N. Campbell
Is Jackie's Warrior a Kentucky Derby favorite already?
Is Jackie's Warrior a Kentucky Derby favorite already?

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The idea of The Kentucky Derby Future Wager is an alluring one.

Every year, punters produce betting slips from as early as Pool A in late November, with the winning horse from the first Saturday in May. Maybe they chose the “All Others” wager or maybe it was a specific horse on a whim.

Either way…What a marvel! Soothsaying at a premium. How is that possible?

Since its inception by TwinSpires in 1999, this type of wager has become something of a novelty. These types of “future” bets are found to be somewhere between “insanely popular” to “insanely ridiculous,” depending on your perspective. Can you really make money through this format? Horseplayers seem to find a way.

Certainly, the waylaying of the 2020 Derby brought the debate to another plateau, as to whether it should be cancelled, since the race was rescheduled for September. Wagering pools were expanded and did not miss much of a beat.

What makes this type of prognosticating so difficult is that there are literally thousands of scenarios that can unfold from the Breeders’ Cup in early November to May of the next year. Even with multiple Pools (there were typically 4 before COVID-19), two-year-olds develop at a rapid set of intervals over that time. Their maturity, both physically and mentally, is difficult to gauge—even for conditioners.

You might think that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile would be the best litmus test to weigh a future Derby champ, but alas, that has not been the case. Since that race’s inception back in the 1984, only two winners of the Juvenile have gone on to win the first leg of the Triple Crown - Street Sense (2007) and Nyquist (2016).

Graduating is hard to do.

The situation has changed even more in the wake of Justify’s win in 2018. He was the first Kentucky Derby winner in over a century to score after having never run as a two-year-old. Muddied waters…

Looking ahead to this year’s bumper crop, can we assess the chances in October of any young colt leading the Derby Futures after the Breeders’ Cup?

If there was one, Jackie’s Warrior, might be odds on. A powerful freshman for Steve Asmussen’s barn, this one is a frontrunner already, and could be this trainer’s best hope to win next year’s Kentucky Derby. Everything this undefeated colt has accomplished has wowed everyone each time he steps onto the track.

Jackie’s has already done something that is extremely difficult to do for owners Kirk and Judy Robison - garner all 3 of the NYRA 2-year-old prizes including, the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful (G1) at the SPA, and finally, just this past weekend, the Champagne (G1) at Belmont. That feat was achieved only twice before with Dehere (1993) and before that, by First Landing (1958). Incidentally, in the most recent instance, the former summarily ran 8th in the BC Juvenile and never made it to the starting gate at Churchill for the Derby.

Jackie’s Warrior has a major opportunity to fare better, even if his sire is not one you may have heard of much. Maclean’s Music, who stands at Hill ‘N’ Dale Farm in Kentucky, was not a horse who became a well-known progenitor of offspring because of his racing record. Even though he never lost, Music only ran one time--@Santa Anita, MSW, 3/11/2011. Stonestreet Stables collected a check for $32,400. Sometimes aspects of this business do not always present themselves in the manner you might think. Maclean’s Music had a trainer that knew something was promising about this horse - Steve Asmussen. Even though he did not have the opportunity to take this charge on the Derby Trail, he filed the works and the talent away, for another time.

Once Music began to cover mares successfully, some of those runners began to win. A couple of them have done quite well, to say the least. Ever heard of Cloud Computing? The Chad Brown-trainee, won the Preakness in 2017 for Klaravich Stables as a longshot at 13/1, defeating Almost Dreaming. Another one from the same connections, Complexity, has netted a nice career among stakes company recently, after running 10th in the BC Juvenile 2 years ago.

This news bodes well for Jackie’s Warrior, especially when we are discussing Derby horses that will have to grapple with the 1 ¼ distance and beyond for the Triple Crown. Asmussen brought him along properly, shipping him from Churchill Downs to New York after his maiden with the expectation that a run like this through the maze might position Jackie’s in the right spot to return to Kentucky for the 1st day of BC in early November.

Joel Rosario took over the pilot duties in the first leg at Saratoga and has guided him ever since. Easy leads were found each time, which can be an absolute blessing on dirt. Some might argue they were too easy, but that is not the case. Bolting early puts particular pressure on gate work, and Jackie’s passed that test. Other than a short brush with the opening in the Saratoga Special, his Beyer speed figs (in the last 2 of 3) were over 100. That speaks for itself concerning the ability to start well.

Clearly, Jackie’s Warrior has the open lane going into Keeneland to be one of the shortest prices on the board of the whole meeting. He will match wits with Brad Cox’s Essential Quality (winner of the Breeders’ Futurity @ Keeneland), among others, but if he can stretch out beyond one turn, show speed early, and shave fractions even further, I cannot see anyone reversing him.

If… that is, if the BC Juvenile is won by Jackie’s Warrior, that begats more jingosim heading into the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool of the year, which runs from November 26, 12pm EST through November 29, 6pm EST. Favorite status again will ensue.

Where and when will we see him next in 2021 is anyone’s guess at this point. Some trainers like the Risen Star route through the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, while others prefer a run through Oaklawn and the Rebel. Wherever Jackie’s Warrior ends up (maybe it will be back in New York), it will make for another fascinating road to the Triple Crown.

Once again, we will just have to wait…

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