Monday’s $150,000 Jerome (G3) at Aqueduct represents the first Kentucky Derby scoring race of the New Year and Remsen (G2) third-placer Takaful rates top billing among seven newly-turned 3-year-olds. Contested at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track, the Jerome offers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward a berth in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby starting gate.
A Shadwell Stable homebred son of Bernardini, Takaful opened his racing career with a stylish wire-to-wire tally at Belmont Park in late October, extending his margin at every call in an eight-length decision. Takaful was overlooked at 12-1 in the 6 ½-furlong maiden race but after receiving an excellent 99 BRIS Speed rating, the dark bay colt was bet down to 4-5 favoritism for his stakes and two-turn bow in the November 26 Remsen.
He sped forward after stumbling slightly at the start, reaching the quarter-mile mark with a 4 ½-length advantage, but Takaful could not stay the 1 1/8-mile Remsen trip, giving way to Mo Town and runner-up No Dozing in the stretch.
“The break didn’t help us and it looked like he was pretty keen the first eighth (of a mile) after the break, but he dug in and held on for third,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin noted. “It was a big step up from 6 ½ (furlongs) to a mile and an eighth. We’ll regroup.”
Takaful, who received a solid 95 Speed rating last time, figures to gain valuable seasoning from the Remsen experience and the front-runner appears more than capable of rebounding in the Jerome under a returning Jose Ortiz.
McLaughlin will also send out True Timber, who rallied to win going away by 1 ½ lengths when making his second start in a 6-furlong inner track maiden race on December 10. Kendrick Carmouche has the call on the Mineshaft colt, a $170,000 yearling purchase for Calumet Farm.
Todd Pletcher has a pair in Bonus Points and Win with Pride. Bonus Points exits a non-threatening second in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and finished third in the grassy Awad two back. Manny Franco picks up the mount. Win with Pride broke his maiden the second time out at Parx in late October and finished fourth as a 40-1 outsider when making his stakes debut in the Remsen. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides.
El Areeb enters in good form for Cathal Lynch, winning his last two starts in convincing wire-to-wire fashion at Laurel Park, including a 5 ¼-length score in the November 19 James F. Lewis that netted him a 102 Speed rating. The gray son of Exchange Rate will stretch out beyond 6-furlongs for the first time with regular rider Trevor McCarthy.
Last-out maiden winner Everybodyluvsrudy and stakes-placed The Walk complete the field.