Bet down as the 13-1 third choice among individual interests in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Independence Hall earned his first points toward a Kentucky Derby berth with a four-length score in the Jerome. The Michael Trombetta-trained colt left the starting gate as the 1-9 favorite in the New Year’s Day qualifier at Aqueduct and is now unbeaten from three starts.
Campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stable, and Kathleen and Robert Verratti, Independence Hall completed the one-turn mile in 1:37.27 with jockey Jose Ortiz. The dark bay Kentucky-bred is by the exciting Constitution, who wound up ranked second among first-year sires in 2019.
Independence Hall won his career debut at Parx on September 21, taking a 7-furlong maiden special weight by a widening 4 ¾-length margin. He followed with a smashing 12 ¼-length triumph in the one-mile Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct on November 3, establishing a new stakes record (1:34.66) and registering a commendable 101 BRIS Speed rating.
After breaking a step slowly from an inside post in the Jerome, Independence Hall rushed forward along the outside to closely track pacesetter Dubai Bobby through opening splits of :23.79 and :47.47. He seized the lead entering the far turn, maintaining a short advantage while Prince of Pharoahs and Bourbon Bay tried to rally into contention.
Independence Hall was given his cue while straightening for home, accelerating clear by a couple of lengths, and won going away in deep stretch. He picked up 10 points winning the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier.
Bourbon Bay got up late to dead-heat Prince of Pharoahs for second, and each receive three points toward a spot in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. It was four lengths back to Celtic Striker, who garnered a point for fourth. Polar Bear Pete and Dubai Bobby completed the order of finish.
Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Independence Hall sold for $100,000 as a yearling at the 2018 Keeneland September sale, and RNA’ed for $200,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March two-year-old sale last spring. The pedigree features a nice mix of speed and stamina.
He is the third stakes winner from the Cape Town mare Kalahari Cat, and most of his siblings have won over a route of ground. The dam is out of the Storm Cat mare Desert Stormette, a full sister to 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Desert Stormer.
Jose Ortiz: “He had a lot of energy here in the paddock, but last time he was like that too on the racetrack. Today, as soon as I got to the pony, he was very nice and relaxed. He broke a bit slow today because he wasn’t standing the right way. It was a small field and I was able to put him in the clear. I didn’t want to get stuck in behind horses today and try to be a hero. I got the opportunity to ride him like he was the best horse and I did.
“From the quarter pole to the wire he did very well. He didn’t look like he did last time, but these are a little better horses and I think the track is very tiring today.”
Michael Trombetta: “I thought it was good. Jose said it was a bit tiring. He didn’t get away good, and this probably got to the bottom of him because it’s been two months (since he raced). This is a different track than he ran on last time (winning the Nashua at Aqueduct). I’m just glad to get through it and it’s one more step in the direction we want to go.
“Truthfully, even if he didn’t win and he was a little vulnerable, if he did things right and was still well, that’s horse racing. As hard as it is to take sometimes, I would have been good with it. Everyone knows what our goals are and we’re trying to get there one step at a time.
“I’ll talk to the partners but I think the plan will be next week to head down to Tampa and train down there and get out of this weather and get him ready for the next step. It could be the Sam F. Davis (G3) (Feb. 8), it’s on the radar in five weeks. But the intent was after today was to head south.”