Betting the Jerome Stakes on a $20 Budget

Fans watch the action at Aqueduct. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With the turn of the calendar into 2017, excitement about the 143rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands is guaranteed to kick up a few notches in lockstep with the frequency of prep races. The wait won’t be long as the Grade 3, $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct is slated for Monday, Jan. 2.

Seven 3-year-olds were entered in the 1-mile and 70-yard race going two turns around Aqueduct’s inner dirt track. The winner gets 10 points to boost his ranking on the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system, with four points granted to the runner-up, two to third, and one to fourth. The last Kentucky Derby winner to win the Jerome was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Monday’s race brings back the third- and fourth-place finishers from the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, run on Aqueduct’s outer dirt track on Nov. 26 at 1 1/8 miles. Takaful (#3), a Shadwell Farm homebred trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was the odds-on favorite in that race and spurted out to set an uncontested pace before stalling in the stretch and finishing third. Takaful did not exactly throw in the towel in the Remsen, which was only his second career start following a blowout eight-length win in a 6 ½ furlong debut at Belmont. However, he also didn’t seem to have much of an excuse in his first two-turn test, considering the moderate, unchallenged pace he had set through the first six furlongs (1:14:02).

Takaful will very likely be favored in the Jerome and he has been working splendidly for McLaughlin since the Remsen, but I am still not sold on the well-bred son of Bernardini as a legit Derby contender. Furthermore, there is another speed horse entered in the Jerome, Laurel Park stakes winner El Areeb (#6), who could engage Takaful in a pace duel unless Takaful’s jockey, Jose Ortiz, decides to change tactics and hold his charge back early.

With With Pride (Eclipse Sportswire)

Two other horses have more appeal as win candidates: Win With Pride (#7, fourth in the Remsen) and Everybodyluvsrudy (#2). Win With Pride raced in a stalking position off of Takaful’s pace in the Remsen and, while not threatening winner Mo Town and runner-up No Dozing in the lane, did show some good late energy. Win With Pride has top-class connections and a pedigree to match. He’s owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, and he is by Distorted Humor and out of Love and Pride. Love and Pride is a two-time Grade 1 winner and is from the family of Takaful’s sire, Bernardini. I expect Win With Pride to improve substantially on Monday.

Everybodyluvsrudy enters the Jerome off of a nice three-length win in a one-mile maiden race at Aqueduct on Nov. 27. He also finished a decent second to Remsen winner Mo Town back in September, and I think Mo Town is the clear standout among New York-based Derby contenders to this point. Everybodyluvsrudy is by 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, who probably will finish second in the freshman sire rankings for 2016, and both this colt and Win With Pride have Equibase Speed Figures that are on the rise.

The other horses entered in the Jerome are: stakes-placed Bonus Points (#1), another Todd Pletcher trainee; maiden winner True Timber (#4), another one trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and a potential closer; and multiple stakes-placed The Walk (#5); owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Tom Albertrani.

Betting strategy on a $20 budget:

$8 win on 7 Win With Pride ($8)

$3 exacta box 2,7 ($6)

$1 exacta 2,7 with 2,3,4,7 ($6)

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