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Aaron previews the 2023 Jerome Stakes from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots from this prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1). New York-breds Arctic Arrogance and Neural Network step up to tackle open company in their home state; will either one find victory? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Chester and Mary Broman’s New York homebred Arctic Arrogance will vie for his first open company stakes score in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome, a one-turn mile for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Jerome, a prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that will award 10-4-3-2-1 qualifying points to the top-five finishers, is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which co-features the re-scheduled $150,000 Queens County in Race 9. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
Arctic Arrogance arrives from a close runner-up finish behind Dubyuhnell in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track on December 3 for trainer Linda Rice. The son of Frosted raced on the inside and held a short advantage over a pressing Dubyuhnell until the stretch call, but could not fend off his foe down the lane and was defeated a half-length in a final time of 1:50.88. It was a further 11 1/4-lengths back to graded-stakes placed Tuskegee Airmen in third. The effort awarded Arctic Arrogance a field-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure.
“I thought he was at a bit of a disadvantage because he was pinned on the rail in a pool of water, but it was a great effort,” said Rice, who was the leading trainer and owner at the recently concluded Aqueduct fall meet. “He didn’t get beat far and it was a long way back to third.”
Arctic Arrogance made his open company debut on the heels of a dominant victory in the Sleepy Hollow on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A, leading at evert point of call before easily drawing away under returning pilot Jose Lezcano to post a 4 1/2-length victory. His other two starts were a debut maiden score in September at Saratoga Race Course and a runner-up effort in the Bertram F. Bongard later that month at the Big A.
Arctic Arrogance, who has been assigned post 6, is out of the unraced Uncle Mo mare Modest Maven, a $1 million purchase by Chester Broman at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Modest Maven is out of the Tale of the Cat mare Dream Street, a half-sister to dual champion and Hall of Famer Housebuster.
Rice will also send out Valenzan Day [post 3, Jose Gomez] for his first start since he was claimed for $50,000 out of a strong optional claiming victory on December 4 for previous conditioner Rudy Rodriguez. The Florida-bred son of Khozan made eight starts as a juvenile, earning two wins and a stakes placing when third in the Tremont in June at Belmont.
Klaravich Stables’ Neural Network will make his first start against winners after an impressive debut state-bred maiden score on November 13 sprinting seven furlongs over a muddy Big A main track. Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, the New York-bred son of Cloud Computing pounced from 2 1/2 lengths off the pace to take charge at the top of the lane and cruise home to a five-length victory.
Brown said it is special to train a son of Cloud Computing, who he conditioned to on-the-board efforts in the Grade 3 Gotham and Grade 2 Wood Memorial at the Big A en route to a victory in the 2017 Grade 1 Preakness.
“This horse is training quite well and he’s a horse we really thought a lot of,” said Brown, who recently earned his eighth consecutive year-end training title at NYRA and was also the nation’s leading trainer by earnings in 2022. “He’s a New York-bred, but he trains like he can handle open company and it looks like the longer the better. He’s got some extra sentimental value being by Cloud Computing, who was a really special horse for us. We’re hoping he can do his dad proud and try and develop onto the Triple Crown trail through New York like his dad did.”
Neural Network’s final preparations for the Jerome included a five-furlong breeze in 1:02.90 over the Belmont Park dirt training track Friday. Bred in the Empire State by Milfer Farm, the dark bay colt was a $120,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale from the Legacy Bloodstock consignment. Out of the winning Street Cry mare Lapinski, Neural Network’s third dam is Grade 1-winner Cara Rafaela, who produced 2006 Preakness winner and influential sire Bernardini.
Manny Franco will ride from the inside post.
Trainer Jimmy Ferraro will saddle New York-bred General Banker as he looks to double up on stakes scores after graduating in style last out in the $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way sprinting seven furlongs over a muddy and sealed Big A main track on December 17. Owned and bred by John Forma’s Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England, the son of leading New York sire Central Banker was a dominant winner of the Great White Way under Eric Cancel, closing from fourth-of-11 to post an 8 1/2-length victory that garnered an 83 Beyer.
“It was shocking,” said Ferraro. “I thought we had a good chance, but until you do it, you don’t really know.”
The dark bay colt, who will make his open-company debut, was previously on-the-board in three of his first seven outings and showed improvement when adding blinkers for the first time three starts back. His latest work was a half-mile breeze in 50.20 seconds on New Year’s Eve, and Ferraro said he is hopeful for a swift tempo for General Banker to close into on Saturday.
“He’s training good and we just did a leisurely half-mile,” said Ferraro. “There’s a lot of speed in this race, so it might set up good for him. He seems like he’s got some ability. He’s more focused mentally because of maturity and the blinkers. He’s been having massages, too, and everybody likes a massage.”
Cancel has the call again from post 7.
Mr. Amore Stable’s graded stakes-placed New York homebred Andiamo a Firenze will make his first outing since a narrow defeat to Acoustic Ave in the New York Breeders’ Futurity on October 16 at Finger Lakes Racetrack. Trained by Kelly Breen, the son of Speightstown battled furiously with his foe throughout the six-furlong sprint and engaged in a thrilling stretch battle, but came up a nose short of victory and finished one length ahead of filly Stonewall Star, who exited that race to win the Key Cents in November at the Big A.
Andiamo a Firenze earned his lone graded placing when finishing a game third in the Grade 3 Sanford in July at Saratoga Race Course. He notched his first stakes victory in his next start with a pacesetting 5 1/2-length victory in the state-bred Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital on August 26 at the Spa. He is a three-quarter sibling to the Breen-trained Firenze Fire, who won nine graded stakes and over $2.7 million in earnings, highlighted by a Grade 1 triumph in the Champagne as a juvenile at Belmont.
Kendrick Carmouche will look to engineer a winning ride from post 5.
Completing the field are Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds’ Maryland homebred Circling the Drain [post 2, Jevian Toledo], who graduated at second asking on December 9 at Laurel Park for trainer Brittany Russell; BG Stables’ Kentucky homebred Lugan Knight [post 4, Dylan Davis], a two-time winner for trainer Michael McCarthy that hails from the family of dual Canadian Champion and multiple graded stakes-winner Roxy Gap; and owner/trainer Amira Chichakly’s Narciso Dali [post 8, Katie Davis], an open-lengths winner last out in a December 1 maiden claimer at the Big A.
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