Road to Derby in 2021 Starts in Jerome at Aqueduct


A field of five line up in Friday’s $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct. (© Cheryl Quigley |

The first Road to the Kentucky Derby points race of 2021 is set for New Year’s Day at Aqueduct where a field of five will line up in the $150,000 Jerome.

Sure, there have already been 15 Road to the Kentucky Derby points races in the books, but who does not want to forget that 2020 even happened?

The Brad Cox trained Swill is the 7-5 morning line favorite for the Jerome, which was first run in 1886 and has been won by a few really good colts including Bold Ruler, Kelso and Carry Back. However, the race has not had much of an impact on the Triple Crown series in recent years.

Swill is cutting back to one turn after a fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in his stakes debut.

Eagle Orb (9-5) is the second choice on the morning line in this compact field. The New York bred won the state bred Notebook in his last outing for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and stretches back out to a mile.

“The mile won’t be a problem. The first time we ran at a mile he did well and now he has more seasoning into him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been very good. It’s a step up for him and we’re going to see what we got. We always can come back against New York-breds. Right now, it’s the start of three-year-old season so we have to see what he can do.”

2020 Notebook Replay

Completing the field are recent maiden winner Original (7-2), two-time stakes winner Hold the Salsa (4-1) and Capo Kane (12-1) who broke his maiden at Parx Racing in his last start.

The Jerome is one of two Road to the Kentucky Derby points races this holiday weekend. Saturday’s $100,000 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita will also offer up 10-4-2-1 points toward entry into the Run for the Roses.

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Let’s head out to Aqueduct for Friday’s featured race of the day:

Free Horse PIcks

Aqueduct Race 8 The $150,000 Jerome (3:50 ET)

4 Eagle Orb   9-5

2 Swill   7-5

3 Hold the Salsa   4-1

Eagle Orb

The Rudy Rodriguez trainee steps outside of the state bred ranks for the first time here. He has landed in the exacta in four of his five starts. He won the six-furlong state bred Notebook last out in a sharp effort over a wet track. Two back at a mile he set the early fractions and could not hold off the winner late in a runner up finish in the Sleepy Hollow. The winner Brooklyn Strong came back to win the Remsen (G2) in his next outing on Dec. 5. This guy is bred to handle more ground, by Orb out of a stakes placed Harlan’s Holiday mare. He should be forwardly placed and fits well in this spot.


Cuts back to one turn after a fourth last out in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) which was his first start going long. He stalked the early pace while saving ground, angled out and did not have enough punch left late, beaten 4 ½ lengths. The colt broke his maiden two back going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs in gate to wire fashion. The runner up and 10th place finisher exited that race to graduate in their next starts. A one turn mile looks like it is going to suit this guy well and the trainer is using this race as a prep for the $1.5 million Saudi Derby on Feb. 20 which is also a one turn mile.

Hold the Salsa

This colt is a two-time stakes winner versus state breds, taking a New York Stallion Series race last out going seven furlongs over the main track here. His one trip at a mile came two back where he checked in fourth in the Sleepy Hollow, beaten 8 ½ lengths. The colt is based at Fair Hill with owner/breeder and trainer Lugovich. He needs to take a jump up to land in the exacta here.


WIN: Eagle Orb to win at 8-5 or better.

EXACTA: 4 / 2,3


NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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