04/21/2011 4:09PM

Aqueduct: Astrology using Jerome as Preakness tightener


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Astrology has a sufficient bankroll to crack the Kentucky Derby field. But his connections know the horse doesn’t have the sufficient bottom to be at his best for the May 7 Run for the Roses.

So this week his connections mapped out a new plan for the 3-year-old with the May 21 Preakness as an objective. The stepping-stone to getting there is Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, where Astrology figures to be a solid favorite against seven rivals. The Jerome, traditionally run in the fall, was moved to the spring meet to replace the Withers, a race the New York Racing Association put on hiatus this year.

There was added significance placed on the Jerome for Astrology as the race comes just two days after the passing of part-owner Jess Jackson at age 81. Jackson owned the horse in partnership with George Bolton.

According to Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, the decision to run Astrology in the Jerome instead of the Kentucky Derby is “a perfect example of how Mr. Jackson wanted us to handle things as far as doing what’s right for the horse.”

As a 2-year-old Astrology, a son of A.P. Indy, won the Grade 3 Iroquois and finished second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He was sent to Southern California for his 3-year-old campaign, but got sick upon his arrival which set him back a month, according to Blasi.

Astrology made his 3-year-old debut on March 27 in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles where, after making the lead in midstretch, he finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Twice the Appeal.

“I was very impressed with it,” said Blasi, who traveled with the horse to Aqueduct. “He was fairly close to a pretty legit pace and made the lead and got a little tired the last sixteenth of a mile. I thought it was a great race off of a long layoff. I thought he responded very well and came out of it in great condition.”

Astrology, who will carry top weight of 120 pounds, will break from the rail under Mike Smith.

“The one hole’s not ideal but it’s not the amount of traffic you’re going to get in a 20-horse field,” Blasi said. “I think there’s some speed to the outside of us. Cal Nation has some pace.”

Cal Nation is one of four horses in this field who have only a maiden win to their credit. Cal Nation, trained by Todd Pletcher, won his debut at Gulfstream by 7 3/4 lengths. In his next start, he was beaten a nose by Dance City, who came back to run a credible third in last weekend’s Arkansas Derby.

“I think that race probably flattered him a little bit,” said Jonathan Thomas, the assistant to Pletcher. “The horse has been keeping good company.”

Rattlesnake Bridge won his debut by 1 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream on Feb. 12, then ran second to Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, in the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream on March 12. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin felt the horse raced more professionally in his second start than he did in his debut.

Adios Charlie, trained by Stanley Hough, enters the Jerome off a good-looking maiden win at Gulfstream on March 30 after needing time off following a hind leg stress fracture suffered in his debut last October. Hough likes the one-turn mile distance as well as the outside draw for his colt.

Gallant Dreams, third in the Timely Writer, Justin Phillip, third in the Grade 3 Bay Shore two weeks ago, and Wood Memorial fifth- and sixth-place finishers Isn’t He Perfect and Starship Caesar complete the field.

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