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Mind Control opens New Year with Jerome win

Mind Control showed speed from the start and turned back multiple challenges posting a front-running victory in the $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct. The New Year’s Day feature served as a Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier and Mind Control picked up 10 points toward a berth in the first leg of the American Triple Crown.

John Velazquez was up for Greg Sacco on the son of Stay Thirsty.

Campaigned by the Brunetti family’s Red Oak Stable and Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables LLC, Mind Control shrugged off early pressure from Souper Jackpot and withstood the stretch bid of runner-up Our Braintrust before edging away late to a 1 12-length decision. The bay sophomore completed the one-turn mile in 1:39.06 on the drying-out track rated as “good.”

A maiden winner in his second career start at Monmouth Park, Mind Control followed with a wire-to-wire triumph in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga in early September. He was entered to the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) a month later but wound up being scratched after drawing post 13 at Keeneland. The New Jersey-based colt trained up to the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs but a poor start doomed his chances, and Mind Control rallied belatedly past rivals to finish a non-threatening seventh.

Favored at 3-2 over six rivals, Mind Control has now earned $323,400 from a 5-3-1-0 record. He must still prove himself at two turns and may not have beaten much in this spot, but the Jerome proved to be an encouraging start to his three-year-old season.

Our Braintrust, who made his first start in a Kentucky Derby qualifier after a second in the restricted Maryland Juvenile Futurity at Laurel Park, left the starting gate at 9-1 and finished four lengths clear of third-placer Family Biz, who was bet down late to 4-1 in his first attempt against winners. It was another half-length to Gates of Dawn in fourth, and Souper Jackpot and Direct Order came next under the wire.

Mind Control was bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable and hails from the stakes-winning Lightnin N Thunder mare Feel That Fire.

Jerome Stakes History 

The Jerome Stakes is run each January at Aqueduct in Queens, New York. Returned to a one-mile distance in 2017, the race is restricted to three-year-olds and currently carries a purse of $150,000. Contested in colder weather, the Jerome serves as the first of New York’s four Road to the Kentucky Derby preps, and the top four finishers receive qualifying points (10-4-2-1) towards the Kentucky Derby.

The Jerome is the second oldest stakes race in the country behind the Travers, and the 149th running will take place on New Year’s Day, 2019. Named after Leonard W. Jerome, the grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill, the Jerome Stakes was first fun in 1866. It took place from 1906 to 1959 at Belmont Park and again from 1968 to 2009. The race had been previously contested from 1 14 miles to two miles for its initial 40 years. For nearly 90 years through 2012, the Jerome was a one-mile race, with Noble Nashua setting the stakes-record time of 1:33.20 in 1981. During 2011 and 2012, the race was run in April. 

Since 2011, Aqueduct has been the host track for the Jerome. The race was run over a mile and 70 yards from 2013-2017 and had Grade 3 status before becoming a listed stakes. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. rode two winners during that time, including the fastest time aboard Flexibility (2016), crossing the finish line in front in 1:42.98. Other recent winners include Firenze Fire (2018), El Areeb (2017), El Kabeir (2015), Noble Moon (2014) and Vyjack (2013). Of those recent winners, only Vyjack (18th) and Firenze Fire (11th) competed in the Kentucky Derby, and Vyjack was also eighth in the Belmont Stakes.

Jockey Eddie Acaro has won a record six Jerome Stakes between 1946 and 1960.

Jerome Stakes winners who also went on to win the Kentucky Derby include Aristides (1875 inaugural running), Carry Back (1961), Chateaugay (1963) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000). Chateaugay and Crème Fraiche (1985) also won the Belmont Stakes.

Forego finished second in the 1973 Jerome, but went on to win 34 of 57 starts and was named Horse of the Year three times.

Other past Jerome champions of note include Richter Scale (1997), Kelso (1960), Bold Ruler (1957, sire of Secretariat), Tom Fool (1952), Hill Prince (1950), Fair Play (1908, sire of Man ‘o War), Duke of Magenta (1878) and Harry Bassett (1871).

SCULLY: Mind Control opens New Year with Jerome win
SCULLY: Six-horse Jerome the first 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier
MUCCIOLO: Jerome Stakes Study Guide