Seven horses started in Saturday's $150,000 Jerome S. at Aqueduct, but the one-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep evolved into a two-horse race. Lugan Knight, who had never led at the first call in three previous starts, snatched early control from front-running favorite Arctic Arrogance leaving the chute and gamely held on for the duration to win the Jerome under Dylan Davis.
Setting a pace of :23.41, :47.70, and 1:12.73 with Arctic Arrogance only a half-length behind, Lugan Knight came under stronger pressure in upper stretch as the favorite cut the margin to a head. But Lugan Knight dug in for the final furlong and extended his margin back to a half-length at the wire. The winning time was 1:37.77 over a track rated good.
"I was happy with the way the horse broke. He found himself prominent early and it looked like around the turn he still had a little bit of run," trainer Michael McCarthy said. "I was not surprised to see how well he dug in down the lane. It looked like he was always just going a touch better than the other horse."
A homebred racing for BG Stables, Lugan Knight paid $9.10. Finishing seven lengths behind Arctic Arrogance in third was General Banker, who was followed by Neural Network, Andiamo a Firenze, Narcisco Dali, and Valenzan Day.
Lugan Knight earned 10 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May, while Arctic Arrogance earned four points, boosting his total to eight. General Banker earned three points, Neural Network two points, and Andiamo a Firenze increased his total from two points to three.
This was the second win for Lugan Knight, who was the runner-up in his debut going six furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sept. 21. He broke his maiden the following month by a half-length at Keeneland over 6 1/2 furlongs, and was most recently third in a six-furlong Churchill allowance in late November to Victory Formation, who captured Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park on New Year's Day.
McCarthy said he would take a "wait and see" approach about targeting the 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3) on Feb. 4, while Arctic Arrogance's trainer Linda Rice said the Jerome runner-up would likely press on to that Feb. 4 Kentucky Derby prep at Aqueduct.
Bred in Kentucky, Lugan Knight is by Goldencents and out of Sly Roxy, a Speightstown half-sister to Grade 3 winner Cafe Americano. Both were reared by Canadian champion female sprinter Roxy Gap.