Cooke Creek (inside blue cap) wins the Rocky Run Stakes at Delaware Park on Oct. 16, 2021, under Angel Suarez. (HoofprintsInc .com Photo)
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Cheyenne Stable’s Cooke Creek takes his first step on the Kentucky Derby trail in Saturday’s 152nd renewal of the $150,000 Jerome, a one-turn mile for newly-minted sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Inaugurated in 1866, the Jerome, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, is slated as Race 8. First post on the nine-race New Year’s Day card is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
Trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer said he is looking forward to Cooke Creek’s sophomore debut.
“He’s a very game horse and very honest. He loves to train and a very forward going horse,” O’Dwyer said. “The type of horse he is, I think he’ll be a better 3-year-old – and he’ll have to be to stay going along the road we hope he can stay on, chasing those nice stakes races and maybe get a few Kentucky Derby points along the way.”
The Uncle Mo colt made his first two starts at Delaware Park, graduating on debut in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint in September ahead of a gutsy half-length score around two turns in the one-mile Rocky Run on October 16.
He enters from a good second in the Grade 3 Nashua, a one-turn mile won by the well-regarded Rockefeller on November 7 at Belmont Park.
With returning rider Manny Franco up, Cooke Creek tracked the speedy Rockefeller from third position and advanced four-wide through the stretch run, comfortably earning the place honors by 2 3/4-lengths over Judge Davis.
“He’s not very quick to go through his gears. It takes him a little while to get into top gear, but once he does he gets that stride going,” O’Dwyer said. “He was never going to beat Rockefeller that day, but he was still gaining the whole way towards the line and he always gallops out good.
“The more distance he gets, the better he’s going to be,” O’Dwyer added. “I know we’re going a one-turn mile here again, but I’m looking forward to getting him going two turns again after this next race.”
O’Dwyer said he gave the colt a short break after the Nashua and he has since breezed him back twice, including an easy five-eighths in 1:02.80 on December 24 at Laurel Park.
“We backed off on him for 30 days after his last race to let him grow and get a little bit stronger,” O’Dwyer said. “I think there’s more improvement in him. He’s done nothing wrong so far. He’s had two breezes since his last race and breezed good both times, so we’ll let him take his chance there on Saturday. He’s a lovely looking horse and very strong. He needs to go and run now.”
In order to topple a talented field of eight on Saturday, Cooke Creek will have to overcome the inside post.
“I’m not delighted about the one-hole, but hopefully there’s enough speed in there that he can get into his own nice rhythm,” O’Dwyer said. “I see him in the middle to the second half of them and hopefully he’ll be running them down towards the finish.”
O’Dwyer boasts past Derby prep success at the Big A having won the 2019 Grade 2 Remsen with Shotski, which also marked the first graded win for the conditioner.
He said he appreciates the opportunity to train the talented Cooke Creek, who is out of the graded-stakes winning Bernardini mare Genre.
“He’s a homebred for great owners. They’ve supported me for the last few years, always sending a couple our way,” O’Dwyer said. “This seems to be the nicest one we’ve had for them yet and hopefully he can take us a little bit further up the ladder.”
Ohtwoohthreefive #6 dueling for the lead with Sy Dog (blue cap) in the Central Park only to lose by a nose. (Joe Labozetta)
A veteran of six starts, Ohtwoohthreefive graduated in a restricted event on October 15 traveling one-mile over Belmont’s Widener turf and followed up with an even fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Awad over the same course on November 5.
Blair Golen, the New York-based assistant for Weaver, said Ohtwoohthreefive benefited from a more prominent trip under returning rider Kendrick Carmouche in the Central Park after a wide outing in the Awad.
“The way the race worked out [in the Awad], it just put him in a real wide trip,” Golen said. “Last time, Kendrick rode him and he didn’t have to get out so wide and he put him a little bit closer. The way the race panned out was perfect for him.”
Golen said Carmouche was pleased with how the colt moved over the dirt during a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.66 December 19 over the Belmont training track.
“Kendrick said he hits the ground on the dirt the same as he does on the turf,” Golen said. “He’s always breezed well over it and done everything right. I don’t have any complaints with him.”
By Union Rags and out of the Galileo mare Urban Hill, Ohtwoohthreefive was purchased for $20,000 at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
Golen said the improving bay has matured over the course of his 2-year-old campaign.
“He’s just got a lot bigger,” Golen said. “He was always kind of a round horse and a little smaller but George took him to Saratoga and when he came back to me at Belmont he was bigger and more muscled. He really filled out and mentally matured, too.”
Carmouche will guide Ohtwoohthreefive from post 3.
Courvoisier breaks maiden at Aqueduct under Dylan Davis Dec. 2, 2021. (NYRA/Coglianese)
Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and James D. Spry’s Courvoisier will make his stakes debut after a fourth-out graduation traveling nine furlongs on December 2 at the Big A for trainer Kelly Breen.
A $600,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Courvoisier is by Tapit and out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Giant’s Causeway mare Take Charge Brandi.
Courvoisier, who worked five-eighths in 1:01.44 December 24 over the Belmont dirt training track, will exit post 6 under Jose Ortiz.
Mr Jefferson gave Michael Trombetta his 2,000th career win at Laurel Park on Nov. 4, 2021. (Maryland Jockey Club)
Trainer Michael Trombetta, who won the 2020 Jerome with Independence Hall, returns with another son of Constitution in R. L. Johnson’s Maryland homebred Mr Jefferson, who will look to make amends following a distant fourth in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen on December 4 at Aqueduct.
Mr Jefferson exited the outermost post 8 under Kendrick Carmouche in the Remsen and was caught four-wide into the first turn. The chestnut chased wide through the final turn, but could not make a dent on the widening margins of Mo Donegal who nosed out Zandon for the win.
“The slow pace hurt his chances a little bit and it made him go wide. They were bottled up, but I think the top two horses were very good horses,” Trombetta said.
Mr Jefferson graduated at second asking in his dirt debut traveling six furlongs on August 25 at Colonial Downs. Following a distant fourth in a return to grass in October at Laurel Park, Mr Jefferson added blinkers and defeated winners at 1 1/16 miles over the Laurel main track on November 4.
Trombetta said he added blinkers to provide focus rather than speed.
“Like most horses, it helps him with his focus a little bit,” Trombetta said. “He’s a bigger colt and a longer-striding colt. His best attribute is that he can cruise along pretty comfortably and keep himself in the race.”
Mr Jefferson has breezed back twice at Fair Hill since the Remsen, including a five-furlong effort in 1:02 flat on December 24 as he prepares to cut back to one turn.
“He’s training well and I’m happy with him. I think he’ll like the distance,” Trombetta said.
Mr Jefferson, who will exit post 7 under Mychel Sanchez, is out of the Malibu Moon mare Clockstrucktwelve – a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Never Enough Time.
Rumble Strip Ron won the at Churchill Downs Sept. 25, 2021, under Reylu Gutierrez. (Ron Paolucci Racing/Twitter)
Ron Paolucci Racing’s Rumble Strip Ron, an Ohio-bred son of Klimt, enters from a runner-up effort in a six-furlong claiming sprint on November 20 at Churchill Downs won by Kavod, who exited that effort to win the Advent at Oaklawn Park.
Trained by Anthony Quartarolo, Rumble Strip Ron won a claiming mile three starts back at Churchill ahead of a runner-up effort in the 1 1/16-mile Best Of Ohio Juvenile in October at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
Rumble Strip Ron will emerge from post 4 under Eric Cancel.
Under Dylan Davis, Unbridled Bomber (inside #1) breaks maiden by a neck over Authorize at Belmont Nov. 7, 2021. (NYRA/Coglianese)
The $35,000 purchase at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training has posted a series of sharp works over the Belmont dirt training track, including a bullet half-mile in 47.55 December 23.
Hagler breaking maiden at Belmont Park under Jorge Vargas, Jr., Oct. 29, 2021. (NYRA/Coglianese)
Hagler graduated at second asking in a 6 1/2-furlrong maiden special weight sprint on October 29 at Belmont, drawing clear by 4 1/2-lengths to garner a 78 Beyer Speed Figure. He followed with a front-running win last out in a seven-furlong optional-claiming sprint on December 16 at the Big A.
The Florida-bred Tapiture colt, out of the Latent Heat mare Ambitious Dancer, is a full sibling to stakes winner Sky of Hook.
Jorge Vargas, Jr. retains the mount from the outermost post 8.
Smarten Up Race 1 11/22/2021 Parx Racing
Rounding out the field is Happy Tenth Stable’s Smarten Up, who was scratched out of Wednesday’s Parx Juvenile by trainer Alfredo Velazquez. The American Freedom chestnut romped to a nine-length maiden win last out at third asking traveling one mile and 70 yards on November 22 at Parx.
Anthony Salgado, aboard for all three career starts, is named to ride from post 5.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
NYRA Press Office