Things always burn brightest on the first day of the New Year. For Triple Crown racing fans this winter and spring, and for New York racing fans Wednesday afternoon, the Road to the Kentucky Derby starts in Queens, New York.
And we’re not talking hopefuls and upstarts here; we’re talking, as of today, the first day of a new decade, that a serious Derby horse is about to take his first step as a newly minted three-year-old.
A field of seven birthday boys are going to gather for a milestone event, the 150th running of the $150,000 Jerome Stakes. Carded as the Race 7 race, the one-mile Jerome is the second of five races at Aqueduct that comprise the Road to the Derby series.
Ten qualifying Derby points will go the winner, for which Independence Hall is an extraordinary 1-5 early line choice.
On paper the running of the race looks like a formality. A son of 2019 sire sensation Constitution , he broke maiden on debut over nine rivals by nearly five lengths.
But it was his subsequent start, a 12 ¼-length score in the G3 Jerome over the track in November that gained him a national following.
The plan to return to Aqueduct was made because Trombetta liked the spacing and because he showed an obvious fondness for Aqueduct by the Sea.
“We believe this race will be a good place to start in kicking off his campaign before we head south to continue our plans in mapping out the year,” Trombetta told NYRA publicist. Jose Ortiz, aboard for the Nashua, will ride the colt back from post 3.
If all goes well, Independence Hall’s next run will be around two turns at Gulfstream Park. The Hallandale track gets it’s Kentucky Derby prep series under way with Saturday’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes, a one-turn mile on Saturday.