Let the games begin! The 2020 Kentucky Derby season kicks off Wednesday at Aqueduct with the running of the $150,000 Jerome Stakes. The race drew a field of seven, but all eyes will be on Independence Hall, regarded as one of the top Kentucky Derby prospects at this time. His quest towards the ultimate prize begins in this spot that will go off as race seven with a local post time of 3:55 PM ET.

Independence Hall stands out like a sore thumb. After breaking his maiden impressively at Parx on Pennsylvania Derby day, the colt then moved to the Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, where he dominated the competition by 12 1/4 lengths. That powerful performance served notice that this horse is going to be a major player in the division. Jose Ortiz will have the mount once again, breaking from post 3. 

As far as his challengers are concerned, they all have plenty of proving to do. Of the other six in the race, none have won other than when breaking their maidens. The Linda Rice-trained Prince of Pharoahs probably has the most impressive win of them all, a 5-length romp in a state-bred maiden special weight at Belmont Park going 1 mile. He’ll have the services of Kendrick Carmouche for this race, who will guide the horse from the rail. 

The other impressive maiden special winner of the group is Bourbon Bay. He was able to score over this track last time out, winning a state-bred maiden special weight event by 2 1/4 lengths. He will stretch out for the first time but gets jockey Jose Lezcano to ride for the third straight time. The Bayern colt will break from post 7. 

The full field from the rail out: Prince of Pharoahs, Inside Risk, Independence Hall, Dubai Bobby, Polar Bear Pete, Celtic Striker, and Bourbon Bay. 

( Content Continues Below Ad )

Top Choice 

#3 Independence Hall – There is no reason this shouldn’t be the most lopsided Kentucky Derby prep of the season. This horse could regress up to 30% from his last start in the Nashua Stakes (G3) and still win here. With Independence Hall, this is all about getting a positive start on what could lead to a Kentucky Derby victory. He’ll prove nothing with a win here, but this is just the beginning. Let’s sit back and see if he gets 2020 started off on the right foot. 

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#1 Prince of Pharoahs – His last race earned him the right to give stakes company a shot. After breaking fast from the gate, he was able to take control early, winning a New York-bred maiden special weight at Belmont Park by 5 lengths. That victory came at a mile, which gives him valuable experience at this same distance. It’s still a battle for second no matter how you look at it, though; he doesn’t come close to matching up with the heavy favorite. 

Exotic Plays

#7 Bourbon Bay – This New York-bred will try to make it two in a row after a solid maiden special weight score over this track last time out. He must stretch out in distance for this event, but he his pedigree suggests that a mile will be in his wheelhouse. Look for him to come with a run late in the race. He has a big shot at hitting the board. 

Party Crashers 

None – This race is all about Independence Hall. No matter how you look at it, he should not lose in this spot. 

Throw Outs

#2 Inside Risk – This gelding was broke his maiden at Saratoga in a claiming event before two disappointing efforts against stakes company. This field is a class drop for him as far as overall depth, but he has never faced a horse like Independence Hall. 

#5 Polar Bear Pete – At 30/1, this horse is at least interesting, having finished third to the highly-regarded Three Technique last time out. He is probably a cut below this kind of competition, but he could hit the board at a price. 

#6 Celtic Striker – He broke his maiden at second asking at Monmouth Park with a solid wire-to-wire victory. The son of Congrats will stretch out in distance for this one, which will be a major test. 

#4 Dubai Bobby – After two straight races on the turf, he’ll move back to the dirt for this race. His only prior dirt start resulted in a seventh-place finish in a Saratoga maiden special weight, so he must step up in a big way.