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A New York State of Racing

The Jerome Starts the New York Derby Trail

The page has turned on the calendar marking the start of the year 2013 and of the road to the Kentucky Derby. In New York that road begins at Aqueduct on the first Saturday in January, with the mile and 70 yard $200,000 Jerome (G2).
This year NYRA rearranged its season for sophomore runners by moving the Jerome from April to January. This puts a meaningful Derby prep race in each month with the $200,000 Withers (G3) in February, the $400,000 Gotham (G3) in March, and the $1,000,000 Wood Memorial (G1) in April.
Eight three year-olds, having just celebrated their January 1st racing birthdays, make up the field for the 142nd running of the Jerome. This year’s field consists of two horses with only a maiden victory, six with stakes experience, and three with a stakes victory. There are five horses bred in Kentucky, two in New York, and one in Pennsylvania. Most of the field is based in New York with one horse shipping in from Laurel and one from Parx. However none of the entrants have earned any points on the Road to the Derby.  The biggest surprise might be that only one of these horses is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Siete de Oros (ML 20-1) is the PA-bred that comes into the race from Parx Race Track with an off the pace allowance win at a mile and a third place finish in a state-bred stake. Siete de Oros translates to “seven of gold” and refers to part of the deck of a Spanish card game.
Vyjack (ML 2-1) enters the race with a perfect two for two record on the main track at Aqueduct. His maiden victory came at odds of 17-1, which is unusually high odds for a horse trained by the always dangerous Rudy Rodriguez. Vyjack then romped by over five lengths as a heavy .55-1 favorite in an overnight stake going seven furlongs on the slop.
“He’ll be stretching out, going around two turns, and trying the inner track for the first time,” said Rodriguez. “It will be a learning experience for him, and for us. It’s a very competitive race, but he’s been training very well.”
The regally bred Long River (ML 5-2), owned by Darley and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, needed three tries to break his maiden.  This chestnut colt is by AP Indy and is out of the multiple graded stakes winner, Round Pond. Round Pond won seven races including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2006 and nearly two million dollars. In 2007, she was purchased as a five year-old by Darley for $5,750,000.
“It’s a big step up for him [Long River], going from a maiden to a Grade 2, but you have to have some dreams and hopes,” said McLaughlin. “He’s got the pedigree to go any distance, and we’re willing to give him a try.”
Amerigo Vespucci (ML 12-1) ships in from Laurel with two wins in his first two starts followed by two second place stakes finishes.
Notacatbutallama (ML 10-1) will represent the always dangerous combination of trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole. The horse with the unique name, that comes from a Repole family game of Pictionary, has an experience edge with seven starts and the most earnings of $207,000.  His first six races were on the turf and include 2 stakes wins. This New York-bred closed strongly to finish second in his first and most recent start on a sloppy Aqueduct main track.
“He’s been a very durable 2-year-old,” said Pletcher. “He’s a high-energy kind of colt who seems to bounce out his races really quickly. We were encouraged by his first race on the dirt.  As a New York-bred, there are a lot of options on the turf this summer. This is a step up in competition, and how he does could determine whether he will get a freshening to await those, or remain on this trail.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill knows how to win the Kentucky Derby. He purchased Mudflats (ML 3-1) for Little Feather Racing after his Dec. 8 maiden victory at Aqueduct. Interestingly Mudflats made his first two starts in the same two races as Long River. Long River beat him by six lengths in their second start at Belmont in October.
“He’s a beautiful looking individual,” said O’Neill of the gelded gray son of Tapit. “His maiden victory was very impressive, and I love the fact that [jockey] Junior Alvarado is high on him as well. We’re looking for a strong performance from him, something we can build on, and hopefully he will be a first Saturday in May kind of horse.”
Vegas No Show (ML 6-1) has started six times for Belmont Stakes winning trainer Kelly Breen and owners George and Lori Hall. This Hard Spun colt has two wins including a nose victory in Delaware Park’s Dover Stakes. He ran second in the Nashua Stakes (G2) behind Violence and most recently finished ninth in the Remsen.
James Jingle (ML 30-1) won his first race at Belmont in September, but since then has been chasing Notacatbutallama.
As the Jerome does not carry any Road to the Derby points, the value of this early race will be to see if any of these three year-olds should move along the Derby trail. If so, they will have the opportunity to run in at least two more prep races that do carry the required points. 


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Older Comments about The Jerome Starts the New York Derby Trail...

Brian, it sure was a speed favoring track yesterday! It is a pretty interesting field. I can't believe that Notacatbutallama will be 10-1.
Vyjack, wire-to-wire!
Don't dismiss #4 - Amerigo Vespucci (12-1). He chased a real buzzsaw (Whiskey Romeo) in his latest runner-up effort @ Lrl. Whiskey Romeo was sent to FL for 30 days of rest (til mid-Jan.) and surely will be training for mid-distance 3 y.o. stakes, maybe even the Hutcheson?!

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


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