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Jerome Stakes History

The Jerome S. at Aqueduct is one of the oldest stakes races in North America, but its status as a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race is much more recent development.

First run in 1866 at long-gone Jerome Park, the Jerome was held for many years in mid-September, serving as a prestigious 1-mile prize for talented 3-year-olds. From the 1940s through 1960s, the roster of Jerome winners read like a “who’s who” of champions and Horses of the Year, including Hall of Fame inductees Coaltown, Hill Prince, Tom Fool, Bold Ruler, Kelso, and Carry Back.

Even during quieter periods, accomplished horses bolstered the Jerome’s reputation. Aristides, winner of the inaugural Kentucky Derby, claimed the Jerome in 1875, while Fusaichi Pegasus replicated the Derby/Jerome double in 2000.

The Jerome held Grade 1 status from 1984 through 1994, but slowly lost its status as richer races crowded the calendar. In 2013, the New York Racing Association shifted the Jerome from Belmont to Aqueduct and changed its date to early January, allowing the historic race to re-envision itself as a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Slowly but surely, the Jerome has settled into its new position. Vyjack used victory in the Jerome as a springboard to competing in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, as did 2018 Jerome champion Firenze Fire. By offering Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis, the Jerome has helped fill a winter void on the New York circuit, offering Derby hopefuls a chance to gain a foothold on the qualification leaderboard without shipping out of state.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Jerome Stakes Recap

Sloppy conditions at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day didn’t bother Courvoisier, who put himself into the Kentucky Derby picture by winning the Jerome S.

A 4-1 chance after winning his previous start on the New York track, Courvoisier sat outside pacemaking Hagler in the early part of the race before making his bid in the stretch for Jose Ortiz.

Several horses had a chance with a furlong to go, but Courvoisier asserted himself in the final part of the one-mile event, going on to win by 1 14 lengths and earn 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

The 21-1 outsider Smarten Up finished strongly to take second and earn four points in the Road series. Favorite Cooke Creek took two points for finishing third, with Unbridled Bomber earning one point for his fourth-place finish.

Courvoisier is bred to be good, being by three-time champion sire Tapit out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Take Charge Brandi. A daughter of Giant’s Causeway, Take Charge Brandi is a half-sister to one-time 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach, who was forced out of the Derby by a throat problem (entrapped epiglottis).

Raced by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, John Sikura, and James Spry, Courvoisier is trained by Kelly Breen, best-known on the Triple Crown trail for preparing Belmont S. (G1) winner Ruler on Ice.

Smarten Up finished strongly in his first race away from Parx and should be a player in later Derby Road races, as should Cooke Creeke, who was conceding five pounds to the first two.

By Alastair Bull