Setting Up the January Derby Trail

In addition to the College Football Playoff games, including the spectacular Rose Bowl, we were also scheduled to be treated to our first Kentucky Derby points race of 2018: the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, the bitter cold that has struck the Northeast for the past week forced cancellations of cards on Sunday and Monday at Aqueduct.

However, it’s not as simple as re-scheduling the race for this coming weekend, as NYRA’s Martin Panza said (via Bloodhorse).

“At this stage there’s doubt over when we’ll be racing next week,” Panza said. “It looks like 6-7 inches of snow on Thursday with 35 mile-per-hour winds, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are supposed to be colder than this week. It doesn’t make sense to say we’re going to run the Jerome on Saturday and then have to cancel it. The last thing I want to do is cancel stakes two or three times. It’s the same with the other stakes. It’s not fair to anyone to cancel them several times.”

NYRA, however, does have one thing going for them: they wisely scheduled their Derby preps this spring, leading into the April 7th Wood Memorial, with time extra in between the legs. This should help them now.

Here’s the original schedule of NYRA’s Derby points races:

Date Days Between Race Name Distance
1-Jan N/A Jerome 1 mile
3-Feb 33 Withers 1 1/8 miles
10-Mar 35 Gotham 1 mile
7-Apr 28 Wood 1 1/8 miles

(The varying distances are the byproduct of the winterization of the main track and subsequent removal of the inner track. Because of these changes, which created a second turf course of substantial benefit to the overall program, they can’t run 1 1/16th races at Aqueduct. They’re experimenting with this grouping of distances this year.)

The extra time between the Jerome and the Withers, and between the Withers and the Gotham should benefit NYRA. Here’s the proposed adjustment:

Date Days Between Race Name Distance
13-Jan N/A (re-scheduled) Jerome 1 mile
10-Feb 28 (back one week) Withers 1 1/8 miles
10-Mar 28 Gotham 1 mile
7-Apr 28 Wood 1 1/8 miles

Even if they can’t run the Jerome until next week, which seems likely (it’s supposed to be 14, and 25 degrees on Saturday and Sunday), they can run it next weekend, bump the Withers back one week, and that keeps four weeks between all of their prep races. It’s not perfect, but they should still be able to avoid having to jam races in too close together.

Upcoming Stops On The Derby Trail

Santa Anita runs the Sham, which is a Derby points race, and Gulfstream runs the Mucho Macho Man, which is not a Derby points race, on Saturday.

We’re looking forward to seeing the impressive maiden-breaker Mask, for Chad Brown, in the Mucho Macho Man. Mask, a Tapit, missed the break and split horses nicely to win on debut going 6 1/2 furlongs on October 20th at Belmont.

Fair Grounds and Oaklawn get into the mix next weekend. Fair Grounds will host the Lecomte on January 13th while Oaklawn will host the Southwest Stakes on Martin Luther King Day, January 15th. The Lecomte is headed by Principe Guilherme, 2-2 for trainer Steve Asmussen. He earned a 92 Beyer in a December 17th allowance win at Fair Grounds.

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