April 21, 2018

Firenze Fire a heavy favorite in New Year’s Day Jerome

Firenze Fire and Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Sanford (G3) at Saratoga July 22, 2017 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Hours after officially turning three on New Year’s Day, as many as eight three-year-old colts will attempt to earn Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points in the $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct.

With the elimination of Aqueduct’s inner dirt track the Jerome is back to being a one-turn mile for its 2018 renewal, which it has been for most of its 148-year history. However, the former top-level event was recently downgraded from Grade 3 to Listed by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

Nonetheless, Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 are up for grabs to the first four finishers, and favoritism will fall on Firenze Fire, who enjoyed a strong juvenile campaign punctuated by wins in the Champagne (G1) and Sanford (G2).

Firenze Fire last ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar, but the son of Poseidon’s Warrior finished seven lengths, 20 lengths behind Good Magic. The Jason Servis trainee had beaten Good Magic, then a maiden, by a half-length, as well as next-out Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) hero Enticed, in the Champagne.

“He’s been doing OK, so we’ll see what happens,” Servis said. “I’m not looking for anything particular except a good race.”

Other leading contenders include Seven Trumpets, who beat maiden and allowance company during the Churchill Downs fall meet for trainer Dale Romans, and the last-out maiden winners Honor Up and Old Time Revival.

Diamond King would be the likely second choice in the Jerome wagering if he runs, but trainer Butch Reid also has the son of Quality Road entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Heft at Laurel. Undefeated through two starts at Parx during the fall, Diamond King clipped heels and dropped jockey Frankie Pennington in the clubhouse turn during the Kentucky Jockey Club when last seen.

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