Jerome Stakes Kicks off New Year and Kentucky Derby Preps

Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct First Major Test of 2018

Shortly after the fireworks explode around the globe to ring in the New Year, the Road to the Kentucky Derby continues with the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. North American Thoroughbreds celebrate their birthdays on Jan. 1, and a few of the newly-minted 3-year-olds will brave the cold and try to become the next colt in line for the Derby. The winner of the 1 mile Jerome receives 10 qualifying points towards the Run for the Roses, while 2nd, 3rd and 4th pick up 4, 2 and 1 points.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) cancelled racing at Aqueduct Thursday due to extremely cold temperatures and dangerously low wind chill. Then on Saturday, racing was cancelled again following race 4 as similar severe winter weather conditions

A field of 8 are lined up and the even-money favorite is Firenze Fire for trainer Jon Servis and Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides.

Firenze Fire won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont over the same distance as the Jerome while defeating the next-out graded stakes winners Good Magic (winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) and Entice (winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes). If his form runs him back to those races, he’ll be too tough to beat.

However, racing luck also must be considered when looking at a race track, and at this time of year, the weather too at Aqueduct, which is also a slower and tiring track.

Diamond King (7-2) and Seven Trumpets (4-1) will take some betting action next in line, and Seven Trumpets won a pair of 6 ½ furlong races at Churchill Downs.

Honor Up (6-1) proved he can handle this track with an impressive 11 ¾ length maiden win Dec. 9 at Aqueduct in his fifth start and second straight over the surface. The Bill Mott-trained colt He moves up here and would offer a little price underneath. Old Time Revival (10-1) was a decisive winner of a seven-furlong maiden race at Laurel Park Dec. 11 and further improvement could get him a piece of the action too.

Watching these previous 2-year-olds improve is what is most enjoyable as they make strides and have us handicapping all the angles on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The New Year’s Eve card includes the $100,000 Alex M. Robb for New York-breds at 1 1/8 miles.

The Jerome Stakes is Race 7 on Monday, Jan. 1 with post time at 3:34 ET, weather pending.

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