JEROME STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 MILE, 70 YARDS
Odds-on choice Noble Moon proved a popular winner of the $200,000 Jerome Stakes as the 3-year-old season started in New York Jan. 4 at frigid Aqueduct Racetrack.
Ridden for the first time by Irad Ortiz Jr. for trainer Leah Gyarmati and Treadway Racing Stable, Noble Moon bettered seven rivals while completing the one mile and 70-yard inner track test in a pedestrian 1:45.08 on a fast track. It was the first stakes win for the Malibu Moon colt who put away second choice Classic Giacnroll in the final furlong to register a two-length tally.
Noble Moon, the 4-5 favorite, was bred in Virginia by the Estate of Edward P. Evans out of the winning Kingmambo mare Mambo Bell.
A front-running debut maiden winner Sept. 14 at Belmont Park, Noble Moon was making his first start since a troubled third in the one-mile Nashua Stakes Nov. 3 on the Aqueduct main track. This was his first try around two turns and he passed it with style.
"It's a good sign that he can win and go two turns and fight them off, whether he's on the lead or not," Gyarmati said. "As a rider, you can maneuver him, so that's always handy. He's going to have to step it up again, obviously, because there are some nice horses out there beyond Aqueduct."
Gyarmati said Noble Moon may skip Aqueduct's Withers Stakes Feb. 1 and aim instead for the $500,000 Gotham Stakes March 1. The Jerome is the first 2014 prep season race for Churchill Downs' "Road to the Kentucky Derby", and Noble Moon earned 10 points for his victory.
Breaking from the rail, Noble Moon settled in behind Pin and Win shortly after the start with Master Lightning racing on his outside. Pin and Win led through quarter mile fractions of :24.07 but dropped back quickly as Noble Moon took a narrow lead over Master Lightning through a :48.34 half and six furlongs in 1:13.50.
Classic Giacnroll, a son of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo , ranged into contention on the outside approaching the quarter pole to challenge in the homestretch for Alex Solis as Master Lightning gave way. Noble Moon, however, would not be denied and was edging away from his challenger with something left as they reached the wire.
"He broke a little slowly, but then he put me in the race," Ortiz said. "He's got a big, long stride. I asked him at the quarter-pole and he picked it right up."
It was 2 ½ lengths back to the maiden Scotland in third, ridden by David Cohen. Scotland, who threatened at the rail approaching mid-stretch, finished a head in front of the late-running Matuszak for the show spot with another closer, Lawmaker, a nose farther back in fifth. Mental Iceberg and Master Lightning followed, with Pin and Win eased in the stretch.
Noble Moon had a difficult trip in the Nashua, trailing in the field of 12 for a half mile after being bumped at the start, and then rallying nicely in spite of being six wide coming into the stretch. He finished three lengths behind the victorious Cairo Prince. Noble Moon was scratched out his next scheduled start in the Remsen Stakes with a case of hives.
Part of the Estate of Edward P. Evans dispersal sale at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2011, Noble Moon sold for $200,000 to Rick Grimes through agent Lane's End, who consigned the bay colt to the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2012. He once again sold for $200,000, this time to Jeff Treadway.
Noble Moon is the fourth winner from as many to start for his dam, Mambo Bell, and her first black-type winner. His second victory from three starts was worth $120,000 and boosted his career total to $193,000.
Carrying 115 pounds, Noble Moon paid $3.60, $2.50, and $2.10 while keying a $13.80 exacta with Classic Giacnroll, who returned $4.10 and $3.10. Scotland paid $3.60.