A field of seven newly minted 3-year-olds will look to start 2017 off right on Monday’s special holiday card at Aqueduct Racetrack as New York’s road to the Kentucky Derby makes its first stop of the year in the Grade 3, $150,000 Jerome at a mile and 70 yards on the inner track.
As an official prep stakes for the Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs, the Jerome winner will receive 10 qualifying points toward a berth in the “Run for the Roses,” with four points going to second, two to third and one to fourth.
Kiaran McLaughlin will be represented by a talented pair of runners in Takaful, third in the Grade 2 Remsen November 26, and True Timber, an inner-track maiden winner on December 10, the trainer’s first Jerome runners since 2011.
Shadwell Stable’s homebred Takaful posted an eye-catching, eight-length victory while going six furlongs in his October 29 debut at Belmont Park. In his next start, he stretched out around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen, where he set a keen early pace and held on in the stretch to finish six lengths behind Mo Town as the 4-5 favorite under Jose Ortiz, who retains the mount in the Jerome.
#3 Takaful – After his debut this horse was all the rage, and rightfully so as his maiden breaking performance was breathtaking. Off that six and a half furlong romp he was thrown into the deep end of the pool in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes going a mile and one eighth which proved to be too much of chore as he ran well but ended up finishing third. I was surprised they asked him to make that kind of jump, but it also tells me his connections think a lot of him to give it a try. Today he cuts back to a mile, and as long as he runs a race similar to his first two races nobody should be able to touch him. I’m expecting a wire to wire romp.
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#6 El Areeb – I think Takaful is close to a single, but if you can afford to play El Areeb I think it might be worth the gamble. His last two races at Laurel Park have been big time efforts, and shouldn’t ignored. If his Laurel Park form can transfer to Aqueduct he might have the talent to at least compete with Takaful, and his early speed will keep him close. The stretch out to a mile and seventy yards is the only question mark today as all of his races have been at six furlongs or less.
#7 Win With Price – Last time out in the Remsen Stakes he turned some heads at 40-1 to finish fourth, and he missed finishing third by the slimmest of margins. His race in that one was a huge step up numbers wise compared to his last two efforts so perhaps the stretch out did him some good as he was running well late in the race. Today’s cut back may not help him, although it is important to note that his only win did come at this this distance. With a lack of early pace I think it will be tough for him to win in this spot, but I expect a nice run from this colt once again.
#2 Everybodyluvsrudy – This was a well thought of horse over the summer, and he had some runner up finishes to horses that are pretty solid including Remsen Stakes winner Mo Town. Last time out at Aqueduct he finally broke through to win his first race, and he did it nicely by three lengths against maiden special weight company. Rudy Rodriguez always has his horses running well at Aqueduct, and obviously he thinks a lot of this colt. Wouldn’t be surprised by a big effort, and the price will be right.
#5 The Walk – This is really a logical race for this horse to try, and he’s been beaten by horses that have proven to be decent so far this year. He’ll need to step his game up today to win, but he isn’t the worst throw out I’ve ever seen. With that being said I still don’t think he belongs in the other categories just yet.
#1 Bonus Points – Always tough to throw out Pletcher in these contests, but this looks to be a third or fourth string type of horse for him. Will need to do some big time improving to step up and compete with this bunch.
#4 True Timber – Recent maiden winner over the Aqueduct inner track is a positive, but will stretch out a little bit in this one. Even though it was a win last time out the time of the race was not all that strong. Will have to improve going longer.