Exotics Plays for the 2023 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial

August 24th, 2023

A high-quality field of six sophomores will run seven furlongs on the Saratoga main oval in Saturday’s $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1). Trainer Bob Baffert has a formidable pair for the dash and I will give top billing to one of his entrants.

Baffert's recent Dwyer (G3) victor #4 Fort Bragg (5-2) did not look like he was going to live up to his $700,000 price tag earlier this season, but the son of Tapit has really impressed me in his last two outings. A close second in the Pat Day Mile (G2) in May, the bay colt outlasted the excellent Saudi Crown in a stretch duel to win the Dwyer and has registered some swift morning workouts since then.

Fort Bragg is 2-for-2 with blinkers on and appears to be peaking. I feel that cutting back from one mile to seven furlongs will aid his chances, too. I expect the Kentucky-bred to be tracking the pace from the second flight early and inching clear inside the final furlong. Joel Rosario is named to guide the top pick.

Woody Stephens (G1) victor #6 Arabian Lion (2-1) has never been better and gets a dream post outside in this small field. The $600,000 Justify colt took a few races to get to his best, but he rolls in with a trio of big showings in succession led by his smart Woody Stephens victory most recently. The Baffert trainee is training like a horse sitting on a big effort and will be forcing the pace from the break in this run.

The one to catch and beat in the Jerkens is the unbeaten #5 New York Thunder (5-2), who has romped to four wins in succession by a combined 23 1/4 lengths. Trained by Jorge Delgado, the son of Nyquist made his Saratoga debut a winning one when blitzing his foes in the Amsterdam (G2) last time out, earning a whopping 108 Brisnet Speed rating in the process. But I do fear that the $130,000 yearling purchase will face constant pressure on Saturday, which might leave him a bit vulnerable late under Tyler Gaffalione. With that said, the colt is a surefire must-use contender.

H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Exotics Wagers

  • $30 Exacta 4 with 6 ($30)
  • $20 Exacta 4 with 5 ($20)
  • $10 Trifecta: key 4 with 5,6 ($20)
    Total: $70