Godolphin Racing’s highly-touted 3-year-old Girolamo overwhelmed Kensei after a brief stretch duel and scored the $150,000 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) by 1 1/4 lengths Oct. 11 at Belmont Park in his first stakes appearance of the season.
A son of A.P. Indy who had scored impressively in his first two starts of the year, Girolamo covered one-mile on the fast dirt in 1:33.81 under Alan Garcia. He is trained by Saeed bin Surror.
Girolamo spotted the field a couple of steps after missing the break, but quickly regained ground and raced in third through the backstretch in a field of five sophomores. Pitched Perfectly set the pace in the early going, getting the first quarter in :22.95 and a half-mile in :45.85.
Kensei, the Dwyer (gr. II) and Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner, pressed the pace from the outside and then made a big move just beyond the half-mile marker under Edgar Prado to take over. It was not long after that Girolamo made his three-wide bid and the race between the two favorites was on.
Kensei and Girolamo were on nearly even terms when they hit the quarter-pole and they began their duel when they straightened away. Girolamo had a narrow advantage with a furlong remaining and extended his lead approaching the sixteenth-pole. After easily putting away Kensei, he held off a late charge from Burley's Gold, who rallied nicely under Ramon Dominguez to get second, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Kensei.
“It was a very good trip," Garcia said. "The pace was a little fast and my horse didn’t break that quickly like I thought he would. But, I was very comfortable, relaxing and my horse was very comfortable.
"I only had to hit him a couple of times in the stretch and after that I knew I had the race won. I stopped riding and let him do it on his own. He’s a very nice horse. It was a nice race for him.”
As a juvenile, Girolamo broke his maiden impressively at Saratoga, then was immediately moved into stakes company, where he finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Futurity (gr. II) and Champagne (gr. I), both at Belmont. He was shelved for the rest of the season and returned this summer as 3-year-old, winning a first-level allowance by four lengths at Saratoga and then an optional claimer at Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths Sept. 13.
It is not immediately known where Girolamo will be pointed toward for his next race.
Bred in Kentucky by B. P. Walden, P. Steinberg, and WinStar Farm, Girolamo is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky.
Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, the winner paid $3.60, $2.80, and $2.10. The exacta (3-2) returned $13.80 and the trifecta (3-2-4) was $17.40.
Denver finished fourth, followed by Pitched Perfectly.