by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is high on the “new” Daaher, who won an allowance race in a romp at Saratoga with the addition of blinkers.
Daaher looks to repeat his Aug. 26 performance in the Oct. 7 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park. He will meet seven other 3-year-olds in the one-mile dirt race, which has a purse of $150,000.
Daaher, a Shadwell Stable-owned colt, won the 1 1/8-mile Saratoga race by 13 3/4 lengths over the main track, which was labeled good following rain the previous night. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Daaher bounded out of the gate and quickly secured the lead. He widened his lengthy advantage at every pole.
It was Daaher’s first win since his maiden score at Belmont in the spring. A Canadian-bred, Daaher followed his maiden victory with a fourth-place finish in the Queen’s Plate Stakes at Woodbine and was third in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.
“I just wish I had put the blinkers on sooner because he is a different horse with them,” McLaughlin said Oct. 5. “I felt we weren’t getting as much out of him in his races as we saw in the morning, so we tried the blinkers. The (Jerome) is a tough race, but we would like to know where we stand with him for the future. I expect him to run well.”
Daaher, a son of Awesome Again , carries 115 pounds, three fewer than the highweight, Most Distinguished. Mike Luzzi has the mount on Daaher from post 7.
Most Distinguished won an allowance race at the Jerome distance in the spring at Belmont. That race was run in the slop, and he rolled home a 4 1/4-length winner. Trained by Nick Zito, Most Distinguished followed that effort with a solid second behind Teuflesberg in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) and then won the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
Most Distinguished will look to rebound from his fifth-place finish in the Aug. 25 King’s Bishop (gr. I). John Velazquez rides Most Distinguished from post 5.
Showers are forecast for Oct. 7, which could enhance the chances of Most Distinguished and Daaher.
Digger is a new horse since coming into trainer Rick Dutrow’s barn during the summer, winning his last two starts by a combined margin of 17 1/2 lengths. His first win for Dutrow came in a $75,000 claimer at Saratoga. The gelding followed with an 11 3/4-length score in the restricted Deputed Testimony Stakes at Laurel on Sept. 15.
Dutrow, who won the Jerome two years ago with Silver Train, said Digger’s first win caught him by surprise. Upon arrival in Dutrow’s barn, he wasn’t overly impressed with the horse and said he had to treat his “left knee,” which was giving Digger trouble.
“He was training good enough for the race at Saratoga, but not huge, and he acted silly in the paddock,” Dutrow said. “I couldn’t believe the race he ran, so I was pretty confident going to Laurel. I expected him to run well there.”
Dutrow will also enter Digger in the Oct. 8 Track Barron, a $75,000 overnight stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont.
“The owner (Lawrence Roman) wants to run in the Jerome, but if the overnight stakes is a much easier spot, I’ll keep all options open,” Dutrow said.
New York-bred Stunt Man enters the Jerome with back-to-back wins for trainer Gary Contessa, the leading trainer at Belmont’s fall meet. Stunt Man, who has raced 13 times this year, won the restricted Albany in Saratoga and an overnight stakes at Belmont at the Jerome distance.
Chief’s Lake, Forefeathers, Owners Manual and Vitruvius complete the field.