The 151st edition of the Jerome Stakes, which will be contested on Friday at Aqueduct, is not your grandad’s Jerome. Longtime fans of the sport might remember the Jerome as a Grade 1 test for 3-year-olds in the fall that attracted classic winners. These days, it’s the New Year’s Day featured race at Aqueduct, and the first in a series of four Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve preps at the Big A. It has yet to attract a Kentucky Derby winner in its new spot on the calendar, but it’s certainly capable of pointing out an up-and-coming 3-year-old to watch during the winter months in New York. It will also divide 17 Kentucky Derby qualifying points among the top four finishers.
1. Capo Kane (12-1): He’s only started twice and is coming off a maiden win at Parx Racing in his last outing. Parx has turned out some pretty good horses in recent years and his speed figures are the equal of anyone in the field. He’s worth a long look, though this will be his first race without Lasix.
2. Swill (7-5): He’s the likely favorite and the class of the field off a fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Prior to that, he broke his maiden impressively in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs and an encore of that effort should put him in the winner’s circle. Having Brad Cox as his trainer is another big plus these days.
3. Hold the Salsa (4-1): He’s a New York State-bred and a rather rich one at that as he won a $250,000 Stallion Series stakes in his last start. He flopped against open company in the Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite but he’s been on an upswing since then and should be a major threat here.
4. Eagle Orb (9-5): He’s another talented New York State-bred. After winning the six-furlong Notebook Stakes, this will be his first start against open company. He’s already faced Hold the Salsa and lost by nearly seven lengths at seven furlongs, so the mile distance may not suit him.
5. Original (7-2): He did a complete turnaround in his second career start. After losing by 22 ½ lengths in his debut, he won by two lengths in gate-to-wire fashion in his second try. The problem is that the first start came on dirt and he won on grass. His pedigree indicates he should handle dirt, so he might be worth a second chance on the main track.
THE PICK: Swill
LIVE LONGSHOT: Capo Kane