OZONE PARK, N.Y. – New York’s road to the Kentucky Derby continues New Year’s Day at Aqueduct Racetrack as a field of seven newly-minted 3-year-olds contest the 150th running of the $150,000 Jerome on Wednesday at the Big A.
Carded as Race 7 with a scheduled post time of 3:55 p.m. Eastern, the one-mile Jerome is the second of five races at the Big A that are part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, which awards the winner 10 points towards qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 2 at Churchill Downs. The runner-up will earn four points, third-place will garner two points and the fourth-place finisher will notch one point.
Leading the contingent is Independence Hall for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Robert and Kathleen Verratti. Purchased for $100,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the Constitution colt graduated on debut on September 21 at Parx when besting a field of nine to win by 4 ¾ lengths.
He followed up with an impressive 12 ¼-length score last out in the Grade 3 Nashua on November 3 at the Big A. The dominant victory by the Michael Trombetta trainee earned a field best 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
Trombetta said he is hoping his colt, who has posted six works at Fair Hill following the Nashua coup, is primed to start his 2020 campaign in a big way.
“We’re real pleased with how he’s doing coming into this race,” said Trombetta. “That was a real big effort he gave in the Nashua and we’ve given him a lot of time to recover since then. Part of the plan in returning to Aqueduct for this race was the comfort level in him having run already at the track. We believe this race will be a good place to start in kicking off his campaign before we head south to continue our plans in mapping out the year.”
Reunited with Jose Ortiz, who was aboard in his stellar Nashua performance, Independence Hall will leave from post 3.
Bourbon Lane Stable’s New York-bred Bourbon Bay, conditioned by Mark Hennig, will take on open company for the first time. The Bayern chestnut rallied to finish a close second in his November 11 debut at Aqueduct after brushing the gate at the start. After being steadied at the gate in his second start on December 5 at Aqueduct, Bourbon Bay finished strong to win by 2 ¼ lengths in a six furlong maiden tilt.
Hennig said Bourbon Bay, who will be piloted by Jose Lezcano from post 7, is bred to take advantage of the added distance.
“He’s really developed well since we purchased him,” said Hennig. “I thought he ran very well in both his starts so far. He’s had some issues at the gate, but we’ve been working on that so hopefully we’ve resolved them. He’s running in there against a bear [Independence Hall], but he should appreciate the added distance stretching out to a mile. I think Jose has ridden him well both times and has developed a good relationship with him.”
Darlene Bilinski and Harry Patten’s Prince of Pharoahs steps into stakes company off a stellar five-length New York-bred maiden victory on October 13 at Belmont for trainer Linda Rice.
The homebred American Pharoah colt made his debut on the Belmont turf on September 20 at Belmont where he finished ninth before graduating going gate-to-wire at the Jerome’s one-mile distance.
With Kendrick Carmouche in the irons, Prince of Pharoahs will leave from the inside post.
Rounding out the field are maiden winners Inside Risk for owners Paul Braverman and Robert Murray and conditioner Tom Morley (Post 2; Reylu Gutierrez); Dubai Bobby for owner-trainer Chad Summers (Post 4, Luis Rodriguez Castro); Polar Bear Pete for owner Danny Chen and trainer Eddie Barker (post 5, Dylan Davis); and Celtic Striker for Imperial Racing and trainer Ray Handal (post 6, Manny Franco).
First post on Wednesday’s New Year’s Day card is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Via NYRA Press Release