01/04/2015 12:47PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Jerome Stakes

Tom Keyser
El Kabeir was impressive winning the Jerome Stakes with a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

Grade 3, $200,000 Jerome Stakes, one mile and 70 yards, Aqueduct, Jan. 3, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: El Kabeir
Trainer: John Terranova
Jockey: C.C. Lopez
Owner: Zayat Stables, LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 95

EL KABEIR became the first horse to win two scoring races towards the Kentucky Derby by following up his tenacious victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club with an even more impressive win in the Jerome in his first start at age 3.

His victory solidifies the strong hand his owners, Zayat Stables, have with Derby prospects, as owners Ahmed and Justin Zayat also have the brilliantly fast American Pharoah, a two-time Grade 1 winner, and the peripatetic Mr. Z, a close third last time out in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

El Kabeir led from start to finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club, but in this race he stalked the leaders and then kicked clear in the stretch.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

El Kabeir, starting from the outside post in a field of eight, bobbled slightly a stride out of the gate, recovered quickly to be forwardly placed, but found himself caught four paths wide around the first turn. He continued wide down the backstretch, was three paths wide on the final turn, but left the leaders in upper stretch and drew clear while drifting to the inside rail through the lane.

His Beyer Speed Figure of 95 was one point higher than what he earned in the Kentucky Jockey Club. There was only one other race at one mile and 70 yards on this card. El Kabeir was timed in 1:44.69. Earlier in the card, $12,500 claimers went in 1:47.44. There was rain throughout the day. The track was rated fast earlier in the card, but had been downgraded to good by the time the Jerome was run.

NASA, who finished second, was making his first start in graded company. He was just inside El Kabeir on the first turn while three paths wide, remained inside El Kabeir  to upper stretch, and though no match for the winner down the lane finished 7 3/4 lengths in front of the rest of the field.

GENERAL BELLAMY was far back off the early pace and rallied to finish a distant third, but pretty much was only passing tired rivals.

ACKERET, who was fourth, fell into an absolutely gorgeous trip down the backstretch and around the far turn while chasing three battling  leaders, got up to third in midstretch, but hit a wall in the final sixteenth and surrendered third to General Bellamy. Given his trip, Ackeret  should have finished better.

OSTROLENKA, who was fifth, set the early fractions of 23.79 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.47 for a half-mile, and 1:13.75 for six furlongs, then faded. Considering that pace rivals El Kabeir  and Nasa went on with it, this was a very discouraging performance.

MINI COSMO, who finished sixth, took advantage of his inside draw to hug the rail most of the way but never made an impact.

NOW WE ARE FREE, who was seventh, was adding front leg wraps for the first time. He was three paths wide on both turns while in midpack, then stopped badly after six furlongs.

ROYAL BURGH, who finished last, was in a decent spot mi-pack early and then went in reverse.