The Champagne Stakes dates to 1867, making this a vintage race if there ever was a non-American Classic vintage race. Yet, it holds its vintage status while turning loose 2-year-olds upon the racing world.

Jackie's Warrior-Champagne
Unbeaten in three races, including this Saratoga Special win, Jackie’s Warrior is the favorite for Saturday’s Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. (Image: Coglianese Photo)

Call it a vintage race with fledgling racers. But while you’re at it, call Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park one of the most important juvenile races on the fall schedule. The Champagne not only sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but it often mints them as the 2-year-old to watch.

The Champagne’s winner’s roll institutes cork-pops of recognition: Tiz the Law (2019), Uncle Mo (2010), Birdstone (2003), Easy Goer (1988), Spectacular Bid (1978), Alydar (1977), Seattle Slew (1976), Foolish Pleasure (1974), Riva Ridge (1971), Buckpasser (1965) and Count Fleet (1942), among others.

Since 2010, the Champagne Stakes poured forth two Belmont Stakes winners (Tiz the Law and Union Rags) and two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners (Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby). The mile-long race provides a combination of coronation and prediction of potential.

Champagne Stakes Brings Fastest 2-Year-Old in the Country

Much of that currently centers on Jackie’s Warrior, your 3/5 favorite in the five-horse field. Undefeated in three races, Jackie’s Warrior comes into Belmont Park off a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Saratoga’s closing day, Sept. 7. That victory as the 9/5 favorite came with a 95 Beyer Speed Figure — the highest number by a 2-year-old this year.

That victory came at seven furlongs. Each of Jackie’s Warrior’s three races came at increasing lengths. He broke his maiden first out in a five-furlong sprint at Churchill Downs in June. Then, Jackie’s Warrior validated that with a six-furlong win at Saratoga in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in early August. That preceded the seven-furlong Hopeful victory. Those three victories came by a combined 7 ¾ lengths.

“He handles everything well,” assistant trainer Toby Sheets, who handles the horse for conditioner Steve Asmussen, told the New York Racing Association. “Just like this races are, that’s how he is. He’s done everything very professionally and he’s very straightforward. I don’t see the mile being an issue at all.”

There’s Little Risk Putting Reinvestment Risk On Your Ticket

If, for whatever reason, it becomes one, two other candidates bear attention. The first is trainer Chad Brown’s Reinvestment Risk (8/5). The owner of two consecutive 90 Beyer Speed Figures, Reinvestment Risk chalked the second one futilely chasing Jackie’s Warrior in the Hopeful Stakes.

That runner-up finish came one start after Reinvestment Risk blew away a maiden special weight field at Saratoga by 7 ¾ lengths. That victory came over runner-up Olympiad, who won his next race.

“I’m looking forward to getting him out another furlong. He’ll have no problem with more distance,” Brown said.

Could This Expensive Bourbon Pour Forth a Surprise?

The second candidate is another Asmussen offering, Midnight Bourbon (6/1). The Tiznow product was his sire’s second-highest-priced yearling last year ($525,000) when the gavel went down at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He enters the Champagne fray off a runner-up finish at the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Before that, Midnight Bourbon debuted July 25 with a third at Ellis Park and a victory at Ellis a month later – both in maiden special weight races. In his victory Midnight Bourbon boosted his Equibase Speed Figure 30 points – from a 52 to an 82.

“He’s another well-built, big horse. He’s figuring it out a little bit, but he’s been doing really well,” Sheets said.

Champagne Stakes

Morning Line (Jockey)

  1. Ambivalent, 15/1 (John Velazquez)
  2. Run Casper Run, 30/1 (Jose Lezcano)
  3. Civil War, 30/1 (Kendrick Carmouche)
  4. Jackie’s Warrior, 3/5 (Joel Rosario)
  5. Reinvestment Risk, 8/5 (Irad Ortiz Jr.)
  6. Midnight Bourbon, 6/1 (Jose Ortiz)

If you’re not ambivalent about taking a flier, there’s Ambivalent (15/1). The son of Constitution already ran four times, the most of anyone in the field. But Ambivalent remains a maiden, owning two seconds, a third and a fourth. The third came last out in the Del Mar Juvenile.

The pick: Jackie’s Warrior. Vintage performances each time out shouldn’t change now. Kentucky Derby Futures bettors may want to pay more attention to this horse before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He opened at 33/1 on overseas futures boards last month.