October 21, 2021

American Anthem heads Allen Jerkens Memorial

American Anthem will be seeking his fourth graded stakes victory (c) Melanie Martines Photo

Formerly the King’s Bishop, Saturday’s $500,000 Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) has been renamed in honor of the legendary Hall of Fame trainer known as “The Chief.” It’s a fitting tribute because the 7-furlong test for 3-year-olds has proved extremely important in recent years. The last two winners, Runhappy and Drefong, went on to add the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) before being named champion sprinter at the end of the season.

American Anthem was on the Kentucky Derby trail earlier in the year but cut back to sprints for Bob Baffert after dropping all three attempts at two turns. The Bodemeister colt relished the switch, recording a 1 ¾-length victory in the May 13 Laz Barrera Memorial (G3) at Santa Anita, and American Anthem exits a scintillating 3 1/4-length decision in the June 10 Woody Stephens (G2) at Belmont Park.

Both came at Saturday’s distance and American Anthem registered an excellent 102 BRIS Speed Rating in the latter. He will break from the far outside post in a nine-horse field and Mike Smith rides.

Practical Joke has been a solid route performer, finishing a close third most recently in the Haskell Invitational (G1), but he’s winless from five starts at two turns. The Chad Brown pupil possesses a 4-for-4 mark in one-turn races, including a sharp two-length score in the Dwyer (G3) two back that netted him a career-best 102 BRIS Speed, and the son of Into Mischief must be considered a serious contender here. Winner of last year’s Hopeful (G1), Practical Joke owns a 2-for-2 mark at the Spa and will look to strike from just off the pace with Joel Rosario.

Unbeaten from three starts, Coal Front will be a front-end presence. Todd Pletcher-trained colt opened his racing career with romping win at Keeneland in April and followed with an easy victory over entry-level allowance foes at Belmont six weeks later. From the first crop of Stay Thirsty, the dark bay rolled to a 1 ½-length decision when making his stakes debut in the July 29 Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga. The exciting prospect will face his stiffest assignment to date with strong BRIS Speed numbers in tow (101-102-103) and John Velazquez will be up.

Takaful returned from a freshening with a sharp allowance score earlier in the meet, recording an eye-catching 114 BRIS Speed for the 5 ¼-length triumph on July 21, and the Bernardini colt brings plenty of early speed to the equation. Leading rider Jose Ortiz has the call for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

A rallying second in the July 28 Real Good Deal at Del Mar, Ann Arbor Eddie has shipped in for Doug O’Neill. Mario Gutierrez guides the multiple California-bred stakes winner. Wild Shot posted a nice four-length tally in the Pat Day Mile (G3) three back but will need to turn things around after a couple of disappointing performances in the Woody Stephens and Indiana Derby (G3).

No Dozing has had little success against graded rivals but does exit an encouraging showing at the distance, snapping a six-race losing skein in the Concern at Laurel Park. Dwyer runner-up Tale of Silence appears overmatched at this level and Phi Beta Express will be tested for class after crushing starter allowance foes on the opening weekend.