Nearly two weeks after its originally scheduled date, the $150,000 Jerome will kick off the New York road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Aqueduct on Saturday. The New Year’s Day program on which the Jerome was initially slated, along with the entire first week of racing at Aqueduct, were scrapped due to winter weather and brutal cold.
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 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, as would have been the case on January 1, the horse to beat in the Jerome is 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.
“We still entered but the training hasn’t been ideal,” Servis said. “He’s been doing OK. The weather on Saturday shouldn’t really have an impact on him.”
Also re-entered were Seven Trumpets, who beat maiden and allowance company during the Churchill Downs fall meet for trainer Dale Romans; last-out Laurel maiden winner Old Time Revival; allowance winner Smooth B; and maiden claiming graduate Regalian.
New faces in the re-drawn Jerome include Coltandmississippi, a winner in two of four starts for Todd Pletcher. Scratched from last week’s $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream, Coltandmississippi was hurt by poor starts in two prior stakes engagements, including a Gulfstream stakes in which he was favored.
The field is rounded by Factor This, a course-and-distance maiden winner on December 17 in his seventh career start, and maiden claiming winner Glennwood, badly outrun in his lone allowance attempt at Churchill.