The longshot you have to use in the Jerome Stakes

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Ed DeRosa

January 2nd, 2015

Although the road to the Kentucky Derby began four months ago in September 2014 with the first points races for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, there is something about the first prep for three-year-olds that adds excitement to the Triple Crown trail.

And that first prep is Saturday at Aqueduct where nine three-year-olds have entered the $200,000 Jerome Stakes, a 1-mile, 70-yard event on the inner dirt with 16 Derby points up for grabs including 10 to the winner.

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Of the nine entered, only El Kabier has points: one for his fourth-place finish in the Champagne Stakes and ten for winning the Kentucky Jockey Club. That latter victory is a big reason why he’s the 2-to-1 morning line favorite for this race (and why he carries high weight of 122 pounds). A win or second-place finish would make El Kabier the leading horse by points.

But will he win? He’s certainly fast enough to do so with a 100 Speed Rating in his maiden win plus 96 last-out in that stakes win, which game in gate-to-wire fashion under Racing Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, who ships in to retain the mount.

Most important about that front-running victory is he registered 100+ pace ratings at both points of call, which is faster than anyone in this field has been capable of to date. So while there looks to be several pace types here, El Kabier should have no issue outrunning his foes.

One potential hiccup, however, is post nine. Routes on the inner dirt are not kind to outside posts with horses breaking from posts 8 or beyond winning just 7% of races with an impact value of 0.70.

So if not El Kabier then who? The Pletcher duo of Royal Burgh and Ostrolenka need to reverse dreadful performances in the Remsen Stakes. Ackeret and Nasa are two of four horses in here with Parx and Laurel form and both will take money. This aforementioned quartet will be the second to fifth choices, and I'd rather have favored El Kabier than any of them.

The only maiden in the group, Tencendur, is interesting to me at 30-to-1. If others press El Kabier early, then a closer has a chance, and Tencendur ran a good debut circling four wide after breaking from post two, and the fast work on Sunday gives hope that this one will be in touch with the leaders early to add power to a closing kick.

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Strategy: Tencendur across the board and underneath El Kabier.