Trainer Jimmy Jerkens hopes that the next couple of weekends are prosperous ones for his barn with two of his stable stars slated for Grade 1 action at Belmont Park.
Coming fresh off a victory in the Grade 1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets, Preservationist is targeting next Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. The following Saturday, Jerkens will saddle Green Light Go for the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne on October 5. Both races are “Win And You're In” events for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on November 1-2.
Preservationist made his stakes debut a winning one when besting dual Grade 1-winner Catholic Boy in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 6 at Big Sandy before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.
Since the Woodward, Preservationist has worked twice over the Belmont Park main track, the most recent being a seven-furlong breeze in 1:28.20 on September 17.
“He seems really good. I can't knock him. He's got his energy, he's eating well and he's staying sound,” Jerkens said.
Following his career debut in June 2016 where he finished second, the 6-year-old son of Arch was placed on the shelf and did not race again until the following December. He broke his maiden in January 2018 at Aqueduct and defeated winners in a first-level allowance at the Big A one month later before going on the shelf for 11 months.
Jerkens said he's taking it one race at a time with the talented Preservationist.
“From here, we're taking it one race at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Jerkens. “Just get him back to what he's been doing and hope we can keep him going.”
The veteran conditioner has posted a pair of runner-up efforts in the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Wicked Strong and Effinex in 2015-16.
Stronach Stables' Green Light Go remains on target for the Champagne and will enter the one-turn mile off of a win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Since arriving back at Belmont, Green Light Go has worked twice, most recently going six furlongs in 1:15.60 over the training track on September 17.
“He had a nice work the other day. He galloped out in 13 and we'll give him a nice work next week,” Jerkens said.
Initially intended to run in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Closing Day at the Spa, the son of Hard Spun was scratched from the race due to track conditions.
“He was coming back kind of close but it was a combination of that and the track,” Jerkens said. “Coming back so close we felt like we didn't really need to run on a track like that. We waited it out a little bit. After the first two races it didn't look like it was going to dry and get any better.”
Jerkens has enjoyed past success with 2-year-olds, including his first graded stakes winner Ninth Inning in the 1997 Grade 3 Astarita, but the conditioner said Green Light Go has blossomed earlier than his past trainees.
“She won her first three in a row,” Jerkens said. “Then there's Quality Road, he broke his maiden as a 2-year-old but that was late in the year. But as far as a 2-year-old coming this early for me, he's (Green Light Go) the first one.”
Centennial Farms' Rocketry could target a repeat win in the Grade 2, $200,000 Marathon at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old son of Hard Spun, who finished a strong second in the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational in June, has not won since last year's edition of the Marathon at Churchill Downs.
Perhaps Rocketry's biggest claim to fame was breaking a 98-year-old track record at Belmont Park held by Man o' War when taking the Temperance Hill Invitational last September.
“We're giving him some time now,” Jerkens said. “We're not ruling out the Marathon. I probably ran him once or twice in the summer when I shouldn't have. He ran so hard in the Brooklyn and deserved to win that day. He took the worst of it and just fell short. That would have been colossal if he would be won.”
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