Snake Mountain and Voodoo, two horses trained by Jimmy Jerkens, figure to be the favored betting interest in Saturday's $100, Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III), a 1 1/16-mile race of importance on the national racing scene.
Last year's winner, Evening Attire, who went on to score in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr. II) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) en route to being named winner of the Secretariat Award as New York's Horse of the Year for 2002 by the New York Turf Writers Association.
Like Evening Attire last year, Snake Mountain could prove to be a strong force in the top handicap races later in the year. Snake Mountain defeated Windsor Castle two starts back in the Stuyvesant (gr. III). Windsor Castle has since returned to win the Hal's Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream.
Following the Stuyvesant, Berkshire Stud's Snake Mountain beat a similar group in the Queens County Handicap for his third straight win. The 5-year-old son of A. P. Indy will have a new rider in Mike Luzzi. Regular jockey Jose Santos is in Florida.
Snake is undefeated in five starts at Aqueduct, two on the inner track and three on the main track. The reason for that may be simple.
"I think he does better in the cold weather because he tends to get hot," Jerkens said.
With an entrant as strong as the 120-pound highweight Snake Mountain, it is somewhat odd that Jerkens would also enter Voodoo, a 5-year-old gelding in search of his first stakes victory.
John and Susan Moore's Voodoo has been brilliant at times, mostly in allowance races. He ran in some of the toughest races last year, such as the Met Mile, Tom Fool, Vosburgh, Carter and General George. His best race may have come in the Carter (gr. I) when he missed to Affirmed Success by a length.
For Voodoo's first two-turn race since he was fifth in the 2001 Wood Memorial, he will be coming off a powerful 11-length win going a one-turn mile over the main track in late November against a much weaker group.
"Voodoo ran very well in his last start, but he didn't beat anybody," Jerkens said. "I think he might have a better chance around two turns because he's stronger now than he has been in the past."
Jerkens envisions Voodoo having the lead and Snake Mountain sitting close behind.
Centennial Farms' 7-year-old Ground Storm seems to be the chief threat to the Jerkens entry, based on his fondness for the inner track. From five starts over the winterized oval, Ground Storm has four wins and suffered his only defeat, a second-place finish in last year's Aqueduct Handicap, to Evening Attire. Ground Storm is 5-for-22 on all other surfaces.
Cat's At Home, owned by Edward Evans, will take another shot at Snake Mountain Saturday. The 6-year-old son of Tabasco Cat was defeated by four lengths while finishing third in the Queens County.$100,000-added Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III), 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile
PP Horse, Wgt, Rider, ML Odds
Pgm PP Horse Wt. Jockey Owner Trainer Equip Odds
1 1 *Voodoo(L), 115, Migliore, Richard, 6-5
2 Tempest Fugit(L), 114, Lopez, C C, 12-1
3 3 Cat's At Home(L), 114, Gryder, Aaron, 6-1
4 Mr. Determined(L), 109, Chavez, Luis, 15-1
1a 5 *Snake Mountain(L), 120, Luzzi, Mike, 6-5
6 Groundstorm(L), 117, Castellano, Javier, 9-5
7 My Man Ryan(L), 111, Vega, Harry, 5-1