Saturday’s $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) at Saratoga was marred by the fatal injury of 3-2 favorite New York Thunder, who was on his way to victory when he tragically broke down. Longshot One in Vermillion ended up rallying to inherit the win at odds of 19-1.
Six talented three-year-olds faced the starter, and when the gates opened New York Thunder—coming off a blowout win in Saratoga’s Amsterdam (G2)—broke on top under jockey Tyler Gaffalione and dueled with Woody Stephens (G1) winner Arabian Lion through fractions of :22.29 and :44.40. One in Vermillion, under a patient ride from four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., was content to trail the field in the seven-furlong sprint.
New York Thunder put away Arabian Lion in the homestretch and led by five lengths passing the eighth pole, at which point One in Vermillion had rallied into fourth place. But in the final sixteenth of a mile, New York Thunder sustained a catastrophic injury to his left front leg and fell, which left One in Vermillion to take first prize by 1 3/4 lengths over Indiana Derby (G3) winner Verifying. The final time was 1:22.63.
Verifying edged Arabian Lion by 1 1/2 lengths for second place, with a gap of a dozen lengths back to Fort Bragg and 18 more to Drew’s Gold. New York Thunder was humanely euthanized due to the extent of his injury, while Gaffalione walked to the ambulance to visit first aid.
For One in Vermillion, the victory marked his first at the graded stakes level after recording wins in the ungraded Lazaro Barrera S., Riley Allison Derby, Lost in the Fog Juvenile S., and Turf Paradise Open Spring Futurity. But his breakthrough triumph was overshadowed by New York Thunder’s misfortune.
“It’s sad. He (New York Thunder) was already a winner I think, to be honest,” Ortiz told the New York Racing Association. “Unfortunately, that happened. I asked about the rider, they say he’s OK, so I’m glad Tyler is OK. He’s a friend of mine. It’s not the way you want it to happen.
“You don’t want to win a Grade 1 that way, but it is what it is. The horse won, ran a great race. They ran away from me (early), I wait. Deep in the stretch I was closing, I wasn’t going to catch the winner.”
Bred in California by Richard Barton Enterprises, One in Vermillion is owned by Jonathan Kalman and trained by Esteban Martinez. With six wins, three seconds, and a third from 12 starts, the chestnut colt has accumulated earnings of $653,840.
Following the Jerkens, Martinez indicated future plans for One in Vermillion are still to be determined. “I’ll see how everything goes with him and then go from there.”