Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawczynski
been thirty three days since Honor Code turned heads in the Remsen and Tapiture
prevailed in the Kentucky Jockey Club. It may seem longer ago than that but
keep calm the scoring resumes on Saturday.
begin the New Year at a familiar, yet once forgotten place. The good news is
that it only took Churchill Downs one year before they recognized that the
Jerome Stakes deserves to be an official qualification race. And so now it is, and
eight derby hopefuls are ready to go.
begin with the heavy favorite that will be breaking from post position 1,
Noble Moon. The son of Malibu Moon and Mambo Bell returns to Aqueduct after he
finished 3rd last time out in the G2 Nashua Stakes on 11/3. Trained
by Leah Gyarmati, Noble Moon gets most of his attention on the morning line
with pretty good reason.
a solid win in his career debut, the Nashua was then chosen as his next race.
But graded stakes racing isn’t always very kind. Bumped at the start the Virginia bred colt faced the daunting task of moving from last place in a 12 horse field. Although
he was not able to overcome the challenge, Noble Moon still put together a
a 6 wide turn into the stretch he battled his way home and hung on for the
final spot in a nice priced $2 trifecta that paid $1,825.00. Ahead of him was Cairo Prince and Financial Mogul. By most accounts these are two highly regarded contenders
heading into 2014. Thus, the 6/5 line on Noble Moon has everything to do with that.
On a side note, his successful sire Malibu Moon is also the proud father of our most
recent Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
Breaking next to him in the starting gate is Scotland, the second
choice on the morning line. This colt and son of Horse Greeley and Varus is
entering his first graded stakes race after finishing runner up in his first
two maiden attempts. Although that does not stand out as enough to earn him odds
of 7/2, his workouts might. Training exclusively on the AWT at Fair Hill in
December, Scotland fired two solid 5F works: 1:01 on 12/15 and 1:00 on 12/27.
However, he’s yet to race further than 7 furlongs and he has not trained at distance greater than 5 furlongs. So, like one of the many, many
times we’ll ask this prep season; is he ready for the distance?
Alex Solis was the pilot in Noble Moon’s first two races but
will not be returning to the saddle in the Jerome. Not sure why or who made the
decision but instead Solis will be aboard the third choice on the
morning line, Classic Giacnroll. Son of the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo,
this Kentucky Bred colt is one of the most seasoned horses in the field.
With two maiden races in the books by mid August Classic
Giacnroll returned to Parx to win on his third attempt. From there he fired
back to win a 6F allowance before moving on to the Marylander Stakes at Laurel.
The win streak was broken up but he was game enough to finish a respectable 3rd.
This will be his first time out since that effort but with
the Jerome being his sixth career race you have to consider his experience as a
We’re not racing 3-yr-olds in graded stakes competition at
Aqueduct without Todd Pletcher are we? Of course not, TP is in with Master Lightning, another experienced 3-yr-old looking to breakthrough.
This will also be his sixth career race but the son of
Pulpit and Maragold Princess has the edge on Classic Giacnroll in my book.
First thing that stands out to me is that his last race, an ALW-OC here at
Aqueduct on 12/22, was over a distance of 1 Mile. Prior to that win he struck out
against graded stakes competition in the Nashua (9th) and Remsen (5th). However, maybe he now has the experience it twill take to capture the control of this race. It’s
a pretty short layoff but I would assume he’s ready to go.
As for the rest of the field it is not short of big names or
potential contenders that are ready to emerge. We’re still in the early stages
of the trail but 10 points can go a long way come May. The field for the 2014 Grade II Jerome Stakes
||Noble Moon (VA)
||I Ortiz, Jr.
||A W Dutrow
||J L Ortiz
||C C Brown
||Pin and Win (KY)
||A Castellano, Jr.
||J A Lostritto
||W I Mott
||Mental Iceberg (NY)
||A S Arroyo
||A O Solis
||Master Lightning (PA)
||C H Velasquez
||T A Pletcher
Only 120 more days and counting until we reach the 140th
Kentucky Derby. Good luck to all of our hopefuls and their connections, let the 2014 Prep Season begin!