A trip to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) was not in the cards for the top contenders in the $200,000 Jerome Stakes (gr. II), but the Preakness (gr. I) could still be possible for some of them. The one-mile test on April 21 at Aqueduct Racetrack should give each of the connections an indication of what the next step might be.
The Jerome drew a field of seven 3-year-olds, four of them entering off failed Derby prep efforts. Trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time winner of this event, will send out a pair, including Sunland Derby (gr. III) third-place finisher Stirred Up and the graded stakes-placed Brigand. Also in the mix is speedy The Lumber Guy, who set the pace but tired in the Wood Memorial (gr. I); Adirondack King, shipping in after a couple of Derby prep tries at Oaklawn Park; and Dan and Sheila, the lightly-raced son of More Than Ready from the barn of Todd Pletcher.
Post time for the Jerome, the feature on Aqueduct’s 10-race Saturday card and the final graded stakes of the meet, is set for 5 p.m. EDT.
Owned by Robert LaPenta, Stirred Up was an even third in the March 25 Sunland Derby in his stakes debut. The son of Lemon Drop Kid broke his maiden three weeks earlier at Santa Anita Park coming from off the pace, and has three works over that track leading up to this race. The 2-1 morning-line favorite will be reunited with jockey Martin Garcia.
Brigand, a $925,000 purchase for Kaleem Shah at the OBS 2011 selected sale of 2-year-olds in training, was runner-up in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) last summer and fourth in the Best Pal (gr. II) at Del Mar. He’s never gone further than seven furlongs, the distance he tried last out in an entery-level optional claimer at Santa Anita March 16. He finished a close second. Corey Nakatani will be in the irons for the first time.
The Lumber Guy broke sharply and went right to front from the outside post in the April 7 Wood, and will most likely use the same front-running tactics from post 1 this time. The Michael Hushion trainee won the first two starts of his career before finishing fifth in the nine-furlong Wood, and the cutback in distance could be just what he needs. Mike Luzzi has the call for the first time on the Grand Slam colt.
More early speed could come from Term Loan, a front-running maiden winner in his fifth try March 17 at Aqueduct, and Right to Vote, an optional claiming winner at 6 1/2 furlongs March 24 at Gulfstream Park. Right to Vote was third to Union Rags and Alpha in last year’s Champagne (gr. I).
“I never considered him to be a Triple Crown horse, but a race like (the Jerome) has always been under consideration,” said Right to Vote's trainer Eoin Harty. “I thought (the optional claimer at Gulfstream) was a good race. He was running erratically, but that will improve with maturity. He won anyway, and he should move forward off that race. I think a mile should be his optimum distance.”
Adirondack King, shipping in from Parx Racing for John Servis, has already raced in stakes company three times this season. He was third in both the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs and Southwest (gr. III) at Oaklawn, and last out was seventh in the Rebel (gr. II). The Lawyer Ron colt had three wins as a juvenile.
“I wasn’t crazy about how he finished in his two-turn races,” said Servis. “He would make a huge middle move and would flatten out late. We’re cutting back in distance to see how it goes, and we’re taking it race by race.”
Dan and Sheila was given a try in the March 3 Gotham (gr. III) after a good fourth in the Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, but finished 11th when tiring badly. Since the Gotham, Pletcher has worked him back four times at Belmont, and he will now be ridden by the red-hot Rosie Napravnik.