Independence Hall wins the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct

Independence Hall wins the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct

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Independence Hall Starts 3-year-Old Campaign in Jerome

Connections take patient approach with Triple Crown hopeful.

Basketballs bounce.

So can bank checks.

You can also add race horses to that list, especially if you adhere to one of the key philosophies espoused by the speed figure crafters at Ragozin Thoroughbred Data.

For a horse, a "bounce" comes into play after an equine athlete turns in an especially fast and improved performance. It entails a regression in the horse's next start, unless it gets some extra rest before its next start.

All of which explains why trainer Michael Trombetta opted to enter the highly promising Independence Hall in the $150,000 Jerome Stakes for sophomores Jan. 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Without question, the soon-to-turn 3-year-old son of Constitution  is coming off a performance two months ago that can be described as especially fast and improved.

Originally owned by Kathleen and Robert N. Verratti, Independence Hall registered a sharp 4 3/4-length win in a Sept. 21 maiden race at Parx Racing that caught the eye of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners president and founder Aron Wellman. Joining forces with the Twin Creeks Racing Stable of Randy Gullatt and Steve Davison, they bought shares of the precocious colt and eagerly awaited his next start, which came Nov. 3 in the $150,000 Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.

Davison, co-owner of the Ragozin service, and Gullatt had a particular interest in Independence Hall as they raced Constitution and have breeding rights to WinStar Farm's popular first-crop sire of 2019.

Their hopes were met—and then some—when the dark bay colt raised his game to a new level. He simply demolished his eight rivals in the one-turn, mile stakes, romping to a 12 1/4-length victory in the scintillating stakes-record time of 1:34.66.

"We were surprised by that performance," Trombetta said about the victory at 9-1 odds. "We had confidence that he would go up there and run a big race, but he exceeded our expectations."

The new expectations led to handicappers backing Independence Hall to the tune of 13-1 in the first round of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. 

"With a 2-year-old with his makeup that puts in a performance like that," Wellman said, "you have to start to treat him like a Derby horse."

Yet the colt's connections, mindful of the "bounce," were more than willing to be patient, resist any temptation to run Independence Hall in the two-turn Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct Dec. 7, and point for the Jerome at the same one-turn mile as the Nashua.

"In conversations with the owners, the horse ran so fast that they wanted to give him whatever time they could afford to give him, so instead of coming back in five weeks (in the Remsen), they wanted to buy him some more time," Trombetta said. "We were a little uncomfortable with the time frame for the Remsen. 

"(The Nashua) was a crazy-fast performance. The first race was good, but the next was special."

While a "bounce" is often inevitable, there's one other adage about the phenomenon that may come into play on Day 1 of the 2020 racing season. Sometimes a horse is so much faster than its competition that it can "bounce" and still win—and that could be the case in the Jerome.

Of the six rivals lined up to face Independence Hall, only one of them has competed in a stakes and that horse, Inside Risk, was ninth in the Grey Stakes (G3) on a synthetic surface and sixth, beaten 14 lengths, on a sloppy track in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.

Unless one of the other six newly turned turned 3-year-olds takes a quantum jump, they will need a dramatically sub-par effort by Independence Hall to catch him.

Meanwhile, Trombetta believes Independence Hall is coming into the stakes in a smart fashion.

"He's training well. We are very happy with him and looking forward to running him," Trombetta said.

As for what's next, Trombetta said Independence Hall will head to Florida where his Triple Crown aspirations will finally be tested around two turns.

"You hear it all the time, but it's a race at a time for me," he said. "I'm hoping for the best possible result (in the Jerome) but we'll take one challenge at a time. If all goes well, we'll relocate to Florida for the winter and make some decisions once we get down there. The owners want to get him out of the weather."

Jose Ortiz, who rode Independence Hall for the first time in the Nashua, will break from post 3 with the likely odds-on choice at post time.

Independence Hall was sold for $100,000 to Charlestown Investments from the Woodford Thoroughbreds consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but was a $200,000 RNA at The Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton's 2-year-olds in training sale in Florida.

The Jerome, one of three monthly New York preps for 3-year-olds in advance of the April 4 Wood Memorial (G2), offers a total of 17 points toward a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) to the top four finishers, which is dispersed on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Aside from Paul Braverman, Robert Murray, Michael P., and Carroll Lyden and James Lyden's Street Sense gelding Inside Risk, the main threats may be a pair of New York-breds.

Prince of Pharoahs, an American Pharoah  colt owned by Darlene Billinski and Harry Patten, is exiting a five-length victory in a one-mile state-bred maiden race for trainer Linda Rice, while Bourbon Lane Stable, Seidman Stables, and Lake Lonely Racing's Bayern  colt Bourbon Bay, was last seen overcoming a slow start to take a six-furlong state-bred maiden race by 1 1/4 lengths under Jose Lezcano for trainer Mark Hennig.

"He's really developed well since we purchased him," Hennig said. "I thought he ran very well in both his starts so far. He's had some issues at the gate, but we've been working on that so hopefully we've resolved them. He's running in there against a bear (Independence Hall), but he should appreciate the added distance stretching out to a mile. I think Jose has ridden him well both times and has developed a good relationship with him."

The Jerome (3:55 p.m. post time) will be the seventh race on an eight-race holiday card at the Big A that begins at 12:50 p.m.

Additional reporting by Byron King