1/5/17 By Shawn Rychling
We said good bye to 2016 last week and hello to 2017…Happy New Year! It was out with the old and in with new last Saturday at midnight and in the world of horse racing it was one huge collective birthday party as all 2-year-old Thoroughbreds turned 3 and a select few turned their attention to the future and the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
And it took just one day for NYRA to start its major Derby Prep schedule as 3-year-olds went to the post last Monday for the Grade-III Jerome Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards over the inner track.
Takaful, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, went off the even-money favorite, while mid-Atlantic invader El Areeb was the 5-2 second choice. The two rivals dueled down the backstretch with El Areeb on the outside. Midway on the far turn, at about the 3/8th pole, El Areeb jockey Trevor McCarthy asked for more and his horse found another gear pulling away and never looking back in a marvelous 11-length romp.
However, the win may have been more visually impressive than anything else. After moderate early fractions, El Areeb and Takaful crawled through 6 furlongs in 1:14.39 and a mile in a snail’s pace of 1:41.63 with each successive the quarter-mile times through a mile were 23.28, 24.83, 26.28 and 27.24. That was SLOW with a capital ‘S,’
Certainly the inner track plays slower than the main track and it didn’t help that a steady rain from the midpoint of the card made for a muddy, sealed racing surface.
Takaful may have hated the surface fading to last after a slow pace, but he also flopped a bit after leading in the Remsen on Thanksgiving weekend so that’s two poor races in a row.
The Aqueduct inner track is quirky so we’ll have to see what conclusions we can draw from the Jerome. Perhaps El Areeb will validate his Jerome win with a win in the Withers on Saturday, Feb. 4. They were far back, but Bonus Points, True Timber and Win With Pride ran second, third and fourth respectively to El Areeb. Perhaps one or more will mature a month from now and maybe find a track more to their liking. Either way, this year’s 3-year-old crop has just started down the long Kentucky Derby trail and we have 5 months before the Run for the Roses.
Don’t forget the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday this week and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.
Good luck and once again Happy New Year to all of our fans.