Aqueduct Saturday 1/1/21: The Jerome (Race 8)
17 Total Derby points (10/4/2/1)
1 – Cooke Creek: He feels like the main contender in this one turn one mile contest. He was a decent second behind the Baffert shipper, Rockefeller, in the Grade 3 Nashua last out. His Delaware form was strong and has held up well. He hasn’t shown enough to make him a legitimate Derby contender at this point, but I do think he’ll take another step forward today.
2 – Unbridled Bomber: He picked up his maiden score in his fourth start at Belmont last out, going off at 10-1. His figures have gone up in each start and the one turn mile suited him well last time. He’s not impossible, but I’m leaning toward others.
3 – Ohtwoohthreefive: All six of this colt’s career starts have come on the turf, winning once, and hitting the board another four times. He’s already earned over five times his purchase price at the races, so I can’t blame his connections for taking a swing on the main track. He ran a big race last out at two turns in the Central Park, and his sire, Union Rags, was a Belmont winner. Factor in George Weaver’s good numbers with horses going from turf to dirt, and I think he’s a logical player here.
4 – Rumble Strip Ron: This is another horse that has already surpassed his purchase price with his on the track earnings. He’s an Ohio bred that did win with open claiming company at this one turn mile distance at Churchill back in September. However, the final time came back pretty slow, and he’ll have to take a big step forward to hit the board with this group.
5 – Smarten Up: He ships in from Parx to take a swing for some Derby Points after handily defeating a maiden special weight field there in November when going two turns. He clearly beat an inferior group that day, as the final clocking came back slow, even by Parx standards. I think he’s in a little too deep here.
6 – Courvoisier: He’s definitely the best bred horse in the race, sired by Tapit and foaled by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Take Charge Brandi. He’s been gradually improving over his first four career starts, finally breaking through in a nine furlong maiden special weight race here on 12/2. I’m not sure I like the cut back in distance to a one turn mile for him though. If he can continue to improve, he’s one that might have a sneaky chance in the Withers next month when getting back to the 1 Mile and ⅛ distance, but I’m not a fan of him today.
7 – Mr Jefferson: He’s yet another horse in this field that has been steadily improving. He was no match for Mo Donegal and Zandon in the Grade 2 Remsen last month, but he still ran a credible race, finishing 4th beaten 10. There’s no one of that caliber in this field, and as a son of Constitution, I think the one turn mile is favorable for him.
8 – Hagler: He was allowed to set ridiculously slow fractions when beating a soft optional claiming/allowance field here on 12/16. His win was never in doubt that day, but the final time and the Beyer figure came back very light. I don’t see anyone challenging him early here, so he might be allowed to sit a similar trip today. The question he’ll have to answer is if he’s fast enough to compete at this level when going longer distances. It was not easy to close on this course yesterday, so I think his chances are definitely upgraded, as I project him to set the pace in here.
The Verdict: Top Picks 1-8-7-3
I’m not sure we’re seeing anyone in this field that is a legitimate Derby contender, but I do think Cooke Creek has the most upside of any in here. He is currently around 150-1 or 175-1 on the Futures Books, depending on where you go. He does have a nice pedigree, and a win here would cut those numbers down significantly. While Jeremiah O’Dwyer is a solid trainer, he hasn’t really campaigned a serious Triple Crown horse, which is something to consider when placing a future wager. As for today, I think there are four runners, Cooke Creek, Ohtwoohthreefive, Mr Jefferson, and, Hagler that have a legitimate shot at taking home the top prize here. From a pace perspective, Hagler might get the run of the race. I’d like to get better than the 7-2 morning line figure on Ohtwoohthreefive (which for Patriots fans, is the zip code for Foxborough, Massachusetts), as he is trying the dirt in the afternoon for the first time. This is probably a spread race to me in the multi-race sequences, while I’ll try to find the best pari-mutuel value in the vertical exotics using this group.
I’ll be previewing some of these Derby Points races this here on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!