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Finally! Aqueduct is back running after a terrible start to the 2018 season. The Grade 3 Jerome Stakes was supposed to be the first Kentucky Derby prep race of the season on January 1, but the weather pushed it back to this Saturday, January 13, due to frozen conditions.
The original field has changed a bit from the one that lines up Saturday, but the favorite remains the same. The Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner Firenze Fire looks like the class of the race and will garner a good deal of support at the windows. In the Champagne, he defeated Good Magic, who later came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile next out.
Trainer Dale Romans ships in the biggest challenger, Seven Trumpets, for the race. The son of Morning Line has won two straight races at Churchill Downs. He’ll have to stretch out to a mile in the Jerome but is bred to handle the distance well. Romans, like always, is very high on his horse.
Of course, you can’t run a big race in New York without trainer Todd Pletcher, and since the re-draw, he’s thrown his hat into the ring with Coltandmississippi. The horse was scratched out of the Mucho Macho Man last week because he drew the rail, so it’s unfortunate that he drew the rail once again in this spot. This race does look a little softer for him, though, compared to last week in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
The field for the Jerome Stakes from the rail out includes: Coltandmississippi, Seven Trumpets, Regalian, Factor This, Smooth B, Old Time Revival, Firenze Fire, and Glennwood. The event will go off as race 8 at a local time of 3:50 PM EST.
#7 Firenze Fire – I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for trying to beat this horse, as I went into handicapping it trying to do just that, but he’s a little too classy for this group. It’s hard to ignore the fact that, two races back, he beat the eventual Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic. No other horse in this race has even won a stakes race, yet Firenze Fire has won both a Grade 1 and a Grade 3 event. I’m not sure if he’s a legit Kentucky Derby contender, but he should be good enough to beat this group.
#2 Seven Trumpets – This Romans horse seems to be on the rise, so it’s no surprise that his trainer has thrown him onto the Kentucky Derby trail early in the year. He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs over a solid group that included New York Central, a highly-regarded colt, then defeated an allowance field at Churchill, which earned him a spot here. The stretch out to a mile could be even better for the Morning Line colt, as he’s bred to go long.
#1 Coltandmississippi – He struggled in the Smooth Air Stakes last time out while drawing the rail, then scratched out of the Mucho Macho Man last week after being assigned inside again. The rail draw won’t do him any favors, but he adds blinkers here, which could help. Pletcher is always dangerous in Kentucky Derby preps, so you have to respect most of the horses he enters.
#4 Factor This – He seemed to wake up after switching to the dirt in his last race, breaking his maiden by nearly 2 lengths. He did it over the same Aqueduct surface and distance as this race. All of those signs are positive, but it remains to be seen how that will translate to stakes company. I’m cautiously optimistic that he can take a step forward and make a small impact in this field.
#6 Old Time Revival – This looks like an intriguing prospect who comes to New York after a big win at Laurel Park in his last start. He started his 2-year-old season very early, then took a five-month break and came back strong in his December maiden special weight score. The major question mark will be his jump up in class. Moving from Laurel Park to Aqueduct won’t be easy, and he’ll also be facing a Grade 1 winner after just breaking his maiden. He might be worth a small shot if the price is right.
#5 Smooth B – He’s struggled against stakes company in all three tries at that level. He did win an allowance at a mile, which certainly is a positive, but that race came at Laurel Park. Transferring that form to Aqueduct will be tough.
#3 Regalian – He improved a bit in his last start when stretching out to a mile to pick up a victory, but that win came against maiden claiming company. The step up in class for this race will be steep and probably a little too tough for him.
#8 Glennwood – He won a maiden claiming race and was claimed out of that win. Stepping up to face tougher company in his last start, he wasn’t competitive against fellow rival Seven Trumpets. It’s hard to see that changing here.
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