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The first Kentucky Derby Points race of the 2019 racing season is here! A field of six colts is set to contest the 149th running of the $150,000 Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day at Aqueduct Racetrack. The Jerome, to be run at 8 furlongs, awards entrants 10 points for winning, 4 for finishing second, 2 for a third-place finish, and 1 point for finishing fourth. The event will be the eighth of the day with a local post time of 3:47 PM ET.
The headliner is Mind Control, who showed early talent on debut July 5 at Delaware Park when he was second to Call Paul, who himself won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes. Mind Control then won at second asking at Monmouth Park in a maiden special weight, which set him up for a start in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. At odds of 10-1, he cruised home to a 3/4-length victory, putting him squarely on the Kentucky Derby Trail. After the win, he was a well-beaten seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to end 2018.
“(His disappointing Juvenile effort) was a combination of things,” said trainer Greg Sacco. “He’d flown in for the second time, and unfortunately, he didn’t take the trip the way we would have liked. Unlike the time we flew him in for the Futurity, he just wasn’t himself for a day or two, but then he settled in nicely at Churchill and was back to himself. It was very rainy there and we really didn’t do a lot with him. It was a combination of him not being himself and then getting a terrible start and losing position in the race. We were happy to see him pass half the field in the stretch, but the main thing is he came out of the race very good.”
Mind Control has trained well at Belmont Park since returning home from the Breeders’ Cup.
“The original plan was to go the Springboard Mile, but it really made sense to stay here and run in our backyard,” Sacco said. “He’s really trained well at Belmont the past six weeks and we couldn’t be happier to be in the Jerome on Tuesday. He hasn’t missed a beat. The training track at Belmont is on the deep side, but it’s in great shape and he’s gotten a lot out of every work. His fitness and energy level is right where we want it to be going into Tuesday’s race.”
The full field of six from the rail out: Direct Order, Family Biz, Mind Control, Our Braintrust, Gates of Dawn, and Souper Jackpot.
#3 Mind Control – If this race comes down to class, then Mind Control has this in the bag. He has been facing the division’s big boys from the beginning and is a Grade 1 winner. His Breeders’ Cup Juvenile effort was disappointing, though, so he will have to bounce back, but that was his first race start since winning the Hopeful in September, which was a very tough ask. You can expect a much better effort here, which should lead to a rather easy victory over this suspect field.
#6 Souper Jackpot – Trainer Mark Casse ships this horse to Aqueduct after a narrow neck defeat at Gulfstream Park last time out in the $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes. Before that effort, he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, defeating his rivals by a 1/2-length in wire-to-wire fashion. This fast horse has drawn well to be outside of the speed, which should land him in the perfect stalking position. In a field of this caliber, he should be able to compete nicely.
#2 Direct Order – He has come alive lately with back-to-back wins coming into this event. Two races back, he broke his maiden at Parx, where he defeated fellow competitor Gates of Dawn. He then shipped to Aqueduct, where he won an allowance race going 6 furlongs over this track by a neck. The stretch out to 8 furlongs will be a question mark for this son of New Year’s Day, but he should be able to handle it. He has a decent setup from a pace scenario.
#5 Gates of Dawn – This horse was second to Direct Order on debut before coming back next time out to win a maiden special weight at Parx by 3 lengths. Parx form can transfer on the NYRA circuit, especially at Aqueduct, where the competition is usually a little bit lighter. With plenty of early speed, this horse will go straight to the front, which could be dangerous in this short field.
#2 Family Biz – At the morning line price of 10/1, this is the longest shot on the board. However, his maiden special weight win last time out at Aqueduct earned a speed figure that can match up with anyone in this race. This field is filled with horses (aside from our big favorite) trying to prove themselves at the stakes level, which means that this son of Fed Biz is not out-classed by this group. He should outrun his odds.
#4 Our Braintrust – This colt was an early riser, breaking his maiden on debut in May before winning the $150,000 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park in June. After a long break, he return to finish second last time out at Laurel Park in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity. He will be tested against tougher here, and there is certainly reason to believe he might have just been an early bloomer.
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