12/06/2012 5:09PM

Aqueduct: Jerome moved to January date

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though money earned in graded stakes is no longer a criteria in determining the field for the Kentucky Derby, the New York Racing Association will offer 3-year-olds a rich, graded opportunity each of the first four months of 2013 leading up to the Run for the Roses.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome, which the last two years has been run in April, will now be run Jan. 5, replacing the ungraded, $100,000 Count Fleet Stakes, which will not be run in 2013. The Jerome will be run at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track.

NYRA is not expected to release its stakes schedule until after its monthly board meeting next Wednesday.

By placing the Jerome on Jan. 5, NYRA has beefed up its program for 3-year-olds pointing to the spring classics. The Withers, a Grade 3, $200,000 race, will be run at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 2 followed by the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham, also at 1 1/16 miles, on March 2, and the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles on April 6.

NYRA officials said the Jerome, which before moving to Aqueduct was run during the Belmont fall meet, didn’t have an ideal spot on the calendar. It was not run in 2010, and for the last two years, it was run two weeks after the Wood and Bay Shore with short fields.

“Having a graded race there could make a difference,” said Andrew Byrnes, the stakes coordinator for NYRA. “It’s nice to have a good 3-year-old program in place from January on.”

The Jerome will not offer qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby, but the Withers, Gotham, and Wood Memorial do.