Strapping Groom Grinds Out Tom Fool Win
Drawing Away Stable and David Jacobson's Strapping Groom rallied in deep stretch to claim the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack (VIDEO), his first graded stakes score since a 15-1 upset in the Forego Stakes (gr. I) last summer.
Another grade I start seems in the cards for the 7-year-old Johannesburg horse. Trainer Jacobson said he would like to target the $500,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 5 after the Tom Fool victory.
"The obvious is the Carter...that's on the top of the list," Jacobson said. "Anything is possible. He'll tell us how he's doing and he'll let us know what he wants to do."
Making his first start of the season off a 6 1/2-length victory in the Dec. 21 Gravesend Handicap, Strapping Groom was sent off the 11-10 favorite in the field of seven older horses going six furlongs. He set his sights on rival Dads Caps while taking a good stalking trip in third under Irad Ortiz Jr. after a slow breaking mid-pack from post 1.
"We thought we'd be closer to the pace," Jacobson said. "Being down on the inside we wanted to get out of there, but the way he ran from off the pace today is another dimension he has."
Dads Caps set early fractions of :22.56 and :45.23 under pressure from 38-1 shot Jake N Elwood, and seemed clear to kick on coming off the turn through five eighths in :57.09. Still third at the furlong mark, Strapping Groom improved his position to pass a tiring Jake N Elwood, then ran down Dads Caps while all-out to do so in the final sixteenth.
"With the training schedules we've had because of the severe winter, he wasn't the fittest horse today, but when I saw the fractions I said, 'We might have a shot,'" said Jacobson. "This was all going through my mind in a split second. He's a good horse, and he's one of the better sprinters on the East Coast, if not in the country right now, in my opinion."
Strapping Groom, 123-pound highweight, completed the distance in 1:09.85 on the fast inner track when securing the victory by a length. He has won five times and placed twice in stakes company for his current connections since he was claimed for $35,000 from his breeder Kinsman Farm at Belmont Park last May.
Between his Forego victory and the Gravesend, Strapping Groom finished third in the Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) in September, fourth in the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) in October, and second, while carrying 135 pounds, in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) in November.
Strapping Groom returned $4.30, $2.70, and $2.40 while 3-1 Dads Caps brought $3.80 and $2.90.
Dads Caps has played the bridesmaid in his past three outings now, with runner-up efforts in the Feb. 1 Toboggan Stakes (gr. III) and the Dec. 13 Spooky Mulder Stakes preceding his Tom Fool effort for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
"One of these days, we'll get them," Rodriguez said. "We were happy with the way he ran. I was hoping the outside horse would clear us and go to the lead, but then we got to the inside and got pressured. He ran a big race. Strapping Groom is a very nice horse."
The Tom Fool victory improved Strapping Groom's record to 10-6-2 from 27 starts, with earnings of $916,713. He was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Silver Deputy mare Something Silver.
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