Rescheduled Jerome tops Big A card
By Bob Ehalt
Mother Nature permitting, the 2018 Triple Crown season will begin at Aqueduct on Saturday.
The Jerome Stakes was originally scheduled for Monday, Jan. 1 with $150,000 in purse money and a total of 17 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby point series on the line. But the bitter cold that would play a leading role in seven straight cancellations at Aqueduct intervened and the Jerome was switched to Saturday.
Despite the 12-day delay, the Jerome managed to hold on to its favorite, Firenze Fire.
Winner of the Champagne Stakes at two, Firenze Fire is starting his 3-year-old campaign after closing out his 2017 campaign with a dull seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Trainer Jason Servis said Firenze Fire battled a fever for much of his stay in California for the Breeders’ Cup and expects a better performance in the colt’s return to New York. Firenze Fire’s connections are also expecting a big year from their horse as the runner-up in the Champagne, Good Magic, went on to win the BC Juvenile and is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old male.
“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.”
Firenze Fire was pegged as a 3-5 favorite in a field of eight.
The main rivals figure to be allowance winners Seven Trumpets (3-1) and Coltandmississippi (6-1).
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Dale Romans, Seven Trumpets is coming off allowance and maiden wins in the fall at Churchill Downs.
Coltandmississippi, trained by Todd Pletcher, was fifth last time out on a sloppy track in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but was a decisive allowance winner at Gulfstream Park West prior to that.
The rest of the field includes Regalian (20-1), Factor This (12-1), Smooth B (30-1), Old Time Revival (10-1) and Glennwood (50-1).
Saturday’s nine-race card at Aqueduct also includes the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy, a seven-furlong sprint for New York State breds.
My Boy Tate (5-2), Celtic Chaos (7-2) and Ostrolenka (4-1) loom as the major players.
A 4-year-old, My Boy Tate is making his stakes debut after reeling off consecutive wins in two allowance races and a maiden race, all of them for state-breds, by a combined margin of 20 ¾ lengths.
Celtic Chaos was fourth in the 6 ½-furlong Hudson in his last stakes appearance. Ostrolenka won the Hudson back on Oct. 21 at Belmont Park, but then finished sixth in a Dec. 9 allowance race at Parx in his last start.