©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to the Empire State, Saturday, where the El Kabeir will go the starting gate as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the 145th running of the $200,000 Jerome Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack. Post time for the race will be 3:48 p.m. ET.
El Kabeir will be making his first start of the season as a three year old and he comes into this race with a 2-1-1 record in five starts, including a narrow win by a head in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) last November.
With jockey Calvin Borel in the irons, El Kabeir led from gate to wire in the Jockey Club and Borel was to retain the mount in the Jerome. However, earlier today, David Grenig of the Daily Racing Form tweeted: Calvin Borel will not ride El Kabeir in Jerome at AQU. His sister-in-law, Debbie Borel, an instrumental figure in his life, died this week.
In five starts, El Kabier was only out of the money when he ran in the Champagne Stakes (G1) last October, and he’s, obviously, a talented colt. A bullet work out at Belmont on December 22 could have him ready to run a good race.
However, the colt that most interests me in this race is Nasa (8-1) who I wrote about in my 2015 Kentucky Derby Outlook. Trained by John Servis, Nasa comes into the Jerome with a 2-1-1 record in four starts, including a 2¼-length victory in the 7-furlong Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Parx racetrack.
Nasa has yet to run in a route race but he should be able to easily handle the stretch out in distance in the Jerome and he has the breeding to be competitive.
Nasa is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he’s bred on a cross with the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd which has produced the classic champions Funny Cide (2003 Kentucky Derby, Preakness), Lemon Drop Kid (1999 Belmont) and Editor’s Note (1996 Belmont). Red Bullet, winner of the 2000 Preakness, was bred on a cross of Mr. Prospector over Nasrullah.
Smarty Jones, the sire of Nasa, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and the damsire, Seattle Slew, was the 1977 Triple Crown winner. Alydar, the sire of the second dam, Lotta Dancing, would have been a Triple Crown winner if he did not have to face his rival, Affirmed, who won the 1978 crown.
I look for Nasa to run a good race.
A long shot I like in this race is Tencendur at 30-1 odds. He comes into this race with a third place finish in his maiden debut running this same distance at Aqueduct on December 12.
George Weaver trains Tencendur and he picks up the services of veteran jockey Jeremy Rose. He also has the breeding to be competitive and if he moves forward off of his last race, he could be a factor at a very good price.
In three starts, Ackeret (4-1) has compiled 2-0-0 record including a 5¾-length romp in his last race at Parx on December 16. He also has the breeding to be competitive and a good work out at Aqueduct on December 29 could have him ready to run a good race.
The Jerome Stakes (G3) is the first qualifying race of the 2015 racing season. Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Jerome Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
2. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,136,000
3. El Kabeir, 11, John Terranova II, $210,792
4. International Star, 11, Mike Maker, $130,979
5. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
6. Mr. Z, 10, D. Wayne Lukas, $473,326
7. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
8. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
8. Dortmund, 10, Bob Baffert, $300,000
10. Leave the Light On, 10, Chad Brown, $240,000
11. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $96,481
12. Upstart, 6, Rick Violette Jr., $300,000
13. Bold Conquest, 6, Steve Asmussen, $72,176
14. Conquest Typhoon, 4, Mark Casse, $221,827
15. Imperia, 4, Kiaran McLaughlin, $163,804
16. Calculator, 4, Peter Miller, $120,000
17. Firing Line, 4, Simon Callaghan, $100,000
18. Frosted, 4, Kiaran McLaughlin, $80,000
19. Far Right, 2, Ron Moquett, $115,906
20. The Truth Or Else, 2, Kenny McPeek, $76,000