Rocketry will be looking to beat his rival Marconi in the $100,000 Birdstone on Thursday at Saratoga. The field of eight horses will be running 1 3/4 miles over the main track.
Marconi, a 4-year-old Tapit colt, won three straight stakes, including the Brooklyn (G2), before finishing far back in seventh in last month’s Suburban, which was 1 1/4 miles. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the 9th race on the card. The race is set to run at 6:51 pm.
Rocketry, the second horse with a 9-5 morning line, will be looking to defeat his rival Marconi. Out of the entire field of 8, Rocketry is the only one to have won a race at 1 3/4 miles. He performed impressively at the G2 Marathon Stakes at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup. At the time, the 4-year-old’s finishing time was 2:57.62, with Hall of Fame jockey Joel Rosario on board.
Marconi and Rocketry have met each other on the track four times this season, and Marconi has finished ahead of Rocketry in each one. The distances of those races ranged from 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles.
Unlike Rocketry, Marconi has not yet performed on a 1 3/4 mile track, putting him at a disadvantage. Rocketry did not only win the G2 Marathon Stakes at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, but he also finished fourth, two lengths behind the next horse, in the Grade 2 Belmont Cup earlier this year. In that race, the horses were running a long two miles.
The rivalry between the two horses goes all the way back to last winter. Marconi won the 3/16-mile Skip Away while Rocketry finished behind in fifth place. Rocketry was upset in that race as he was the 6-5 favorite.
The distances of the races continued to increase as the spring season went forward, and Rocketry got better. In the 11-furlong Flat Out, he finished second to Marconi. He was only beaten by under three lengths. In the Grade 2 Brooklyn, he finished second again to Marconi when beaten by a half-length at 1 1/2 miles.
The latest race they were in together was the Grade 2 Suburban, where Marconi finished seventh, and Rocketry finished eighth. In that race, Rocketry was wearing blinkers, which will not be the case in the Birdstone on Thursday.
“It’s a concern running him back close after that last race, but I just don’t want to sit on him,” said trainer Jimmy Jerkens. “This race is here, and he’s doing okay. I’m taking the blinkers off again because he just doesn’t seem to need them. In fact, he might have even resented them last time.”
Marconi’s trainer Todd Pletcher spoke about the horse’s past performances as well.
“He’s proven at a mile and three eights and a mile and one-half,” said Pletcher. “Now we’re going to try him a little further. He didn’t get exactly the trip we were hoping for in the Suburban; it never really allowed him to get into a good rhythm. But when he does, it seems like he just keeps going and going.”
While Marconi is the set favorite, many will be betting on Rocketry to finally beat out his rival in Race No. 9 at Saratoga. With the rest of the field’s odds being close together ranging from 8/1 to 15/1, there will be good opportunities for those looking to bet on the Exacta, Trifecta (.50), Super (.10) and Double Wagers.