Noble Moon, third in the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) in November, is the likely favorite as newly minted 3-year-olds dip into the first graded stakes action of the year for their generation Jan. 4 in New York in the $200,000 Jerome Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack at a mile and 70 yards.
The inner dirt test drew a field of eight sophomores led by Treadway Racing Stable’s Noble Moon, who came from far back in the Nashua to finish three lengths behind Cairo Prince at a flat mile. The Malibu Moon colt, out of the Kingmambo mare Mambo Bell, should be well-served as the distances lengthen. The versatile runner won on the lead at first asking in September at Belmont Park.
Noble Moon, who is 6-5 on the morning line for the Jerome, missed the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) Nov. 30 at Aqueduct after having an allergic reaction the night before the race.
"He got hives the night before and we had to treat him, so he had to be scratched," said trainer Leah Gyarmati. "He's been great ever since, hasn't missed a work, and is doing very well, so, hopefully, he'll run well on Saturday. He could have run (in the Remsen), even with the hives, if we hadn't treated him around midnight."
Noble Moon prepared for his two-turn debut by breezing one mile in 1:45.22 Dec. 28 over the Belmont training track.
"He sat off the other horse he worked with, Street Gent, and finished very well, so I think we're fine," said Gyarmati. "You have to run in these races if you're thinking about having a nice 3-year-old, a Derby horse. This race probably won't come up as tough as some of the races down the line, but it's a good starting place, and you have to see how he matches up against everyone else."
Another Malibu Moon colt, Lawmaker, was a convincing first-out winner at Laurel Park in late November and makes the jump to stakes company here for breeder/owner John Gunther, who is enjoying success with Lawmaker's half brother, the graded stakes winner Last Gunfighter. Lawmaker rallied from mid-pack to score at Laurel and is trained by Chad Brown.
Another shipper is Classic Giacnroll, who was third in the Marylander Stakes at Laurel in December after scoring a pair of victories at Parx Racing last September. The Giacomo colt has five races under his belt and has never been worse than fourth for owners Lisa Guerrero and Joseph Besecker. Guerrero also trains.
Master Lightning also has two wins from five starts, including an inner dirt victory last out in December at a flat mile at Aqueduct. The colt by Pulpit ran unplaced in both the Nashua and Remsen stakes after having broken his maiden at Belmont in early October for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Although still a maiden, Scotland figures to take action in the Jerome. The Horse Greeley colt has rolled a pair of seconds from two starts, most recently at seven furlongs at Aqueduct behind the highly regarded Surfing U S A. He has come from off the pace in both of his races.
Matuszak broke his maiden in his first race, scoring at Churchill Downs in September, but has failed to run back to that effort in three subsequent tries, most recently in the Remsen, where he finished sixth nearly 10 lengths behind Honor Code. The Jerome will actually be the shortest race thus far for Matuszak, who has run between 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 miles in his three starts.
Mental Iceberg came up empty in the Remsen after scoring against state breds last September at Belmont. The New York-bred son of Freud won from off the pace on the Belmont turf but failed to fire in the Remsen, finishing eighth.
Pin and Win rounds out the Jerome field. The Stevie Wonderboy colt started his career in Florida, sandwiching a maiden claiming victory between a pair of eighth-place finishes before heading north, where he ran fourth in the Don Rickles Stakes at Aqueduct in December.
The $200,000 Jerome Stakes, Race 8, Sat., Jan. 4, one mile and 70 yards, Aqueduct inner track