OTB Race Previews & Odds
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Two-time stakes winner Hold the Salsa has already displayed superiority against his New York-bred counterparts during his juvenile campaign, but will seek a first triumph against open company when he takes on a field of four other newly turned 3-year-olds in the 151st running of the $150,000 Jerome Stakes going one mile at Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday, January 1.
Race 8 at Aqueduct on Friday, January 1 - Post 3:50 PM
Trained, owned and bred by Richard Lugovich, Hold the Salsa posted three wins in six starts in his 2-year-old year, including a last-out triumph in the seven-furlong NYSSS Great White Way on December 6 at the Big A.
The Hold Me Back colt tracked the pace in mid-pack, came under urging approaching the quarter pole, and made a winning four-wide move in the stretch while fending off late challenger It's Gravy.
Two starts prior, the son of Hold Me Back won the Bertram F. Bongard on October 2 at Belmont Park, also a seven-furling event, by 1 3/4 lengths.
Hold the Salsa has been training forwardly at Lugovich's stables at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, breezing five furlongs over the all-weather training track in 1:01.40 on December 23.
"He's been training super. I know he'll run well, it just depends on how well," Lugovich said. "I want him to go a little farther and I think longer distances are going to suit him. He gallops beautifully every day. He's a very kind and nice horse."
Boasting $237,775 in career earnings, Hold the Salsa was a 26-1 upset winner of his debut on July 12 at Belmont, defeating subsequent stakes winner Thin White Duke.
"It's always exciting to get good horses and I can tell he's getting better and better," Lugovich said. "Even though he's quiet he's very good looking and a very handsome horse. Watching him gallop is when you can tell he's a nice horse. He always drops his head. That's good when you're coming to the finish line."
Hold the Salsa will be ridden by Romero Ramsay Maragh, who piloted the horse to his maiden triumph, from post 3.
"He won on him the first time and I like him," Lugovich said. "He also rode [upset maiden winner] Copper Chalice and he paid over $100 earlier in the Belmont meet. He was a first time starter as well."
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez earned himself his first Kentucky Derby starter when New York-bred Vyjack won the 2013 Jerome and hopes that E.V. Racing Stable's Eagle Orb will take a similar path when breaking from post 4.
The son of Orb, who defeated Vyjack in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, will be stretching back out to a mile after capturing the six-furlong Notebook on November 14 at Aqueduct and registered a 74 Beyer. His prior effort in the Sleepy Hollow on October 24 at Belmont Park was his lone start at one mile, where displayed frontrunning dimensions but was passed up nearing the sixteenth pole by Brooklyn Strong, who subsequently won the Grade 2 Remsen.
"The mile won't be a problem. The first time we ran at a mile he did well and now he has more seasoning into him," Rodriguez said. "He's been very good. It's a step up for him and we're going to see what we got. We always can come back against New York-breds. Right now, it's the start of 3-year-old season so we have to see what he can do."
Eagle Orb won his debut, besting eventual two-time stakes-placed It's Gravy going six furlongs on August 21 at Saratoga.
Bred in New York by Barry Ostrager, Eagle Orb is out of the stakes-placed Harlan's Holiday mare Lady On Holiday.
Eagle Orb will be ridden by Manny Franco.
Trainer John Terranova will attempt a second victory in the Jerome when saddling maiden winner Original for owner Eric Fein. The son of Quality Road was a gate-to-wire winner last out in his second start when breaking his maiden over a yielding Aqueduct outer turf course by two lengths on November 14.
Original was obtained for $425,000 from the 2020 OBS April Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training and is out of the Empire Maker mare Unforgettable.
Breaking from post 5, Original will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
Ten Strike Racing and Kueber Racing's Swill cuts back to one turn following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox. Third time was the charm for the son of Munnings, who broke his maiden by three lengths in September going seven furlongs over the Churchill Downs main track.
Swill will be piloted by Kendrick Carmouche from post 2.
Completing the field is Big Cherry Racing and Leonard Liberto's Capo Kane, who broke his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion on November 25 at Parx Racing going a mile and 70 yards for trainer Harold Wyner. Capo Kane will break from the inside post under Dylan Davis.
The Jerome is slated as Race 8 on Aqueduct's nine-race program, which offers a first post of 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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The Jerome S. at Aqueduct is one of the oldest stakes races in North America, but its status as a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race is much more recent development.
First run in 1866 at long-gone Jerome Park, the Jerome was held for many years in mid-September, serving as a prestigious 1-mile prize for talented 3-year-olds. From the 1940s through 1960s, the roster of Jerome winners read like a "who's who" of champions and Horses of the Year, including Hall of Fame inductees Coaltown, Hill Prince, Tom Fool, Bold Ruler, Kelso, and Carry Back.
Even during quieter periods, accomplished horses bolstered the Jerome's reputation. Aristides, winner of the inaugural Kentucky Derby, claimed the Jerome in 1875, while Fusaichi Pegasus replicated the Derby/Jerome double in 2000.
The Jerome held Grade 1 status from 1984 through 1994, but slowly lost its status as richer races crowded the calendar. In 2013, the New York Racing Association shifted the Jerome from Belmont to Aqueduct and changed its date to early January, allowing the historic race to re-envision itself as a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.
Slowly but surely, the Jerome has settled into its new position. Vyjack used victory in the Jerome as a springboard to competing in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, as did 2018 Jerome champion Firenze Fire. By offering Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis, the Jerome has helped fill a winter void on the New York circuit, offering Derby hopefuls a chance to gain a foothold on the qualification leaderboard without shipping out of state.
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