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Co-owner Stephen Brunetti (right) leads Mind Control with John Velazquez aboard to the winner's circle after the 2019 Jerome Stakes.
The first stakes of the year in New York is the $150,000 Jerome Stakes, a very early Triple Crown prep at Aqueduct for 3-year-olds going 1 mile around one turn of the main track. It is also a points-scoring race with the winner earning 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Conditions were typical for Long Island in January, with cloudy skies, temperatures in the high 40's with 35 MPH wind gusts. Hopeful (G1) winner Mind Control was sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the field of 6 off his 7th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Souper Jackpot, second in the Smooth Air at Gulfstream, and 4-1 third choice Family Biz, winner of a maiden in his 4th attempt last out.
Mind Control leads down the stretch in the Jerome Stakes
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Mind Control Velazquez 5.00 3.90 2.80 4 Our Braintrust Vargas Jr. 5.00 3.40 2 Family Biz Davis 3.00 Winning Time: 1:39.06 $2 Exacta 3-4 19.00 $1 Trifecta 3-4-2 70.50 $1 Superfecta 3-4-2-5 266.50
Left: Mind Control in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Gregory Sacco said, "He sat off the horse when he broke his maiden, but in this race, by the way he's been training, I knew how sharp he is and was going to come out of there bouncing. I didn't want Johnny to take a hold of him. Johnny is so smart, once the gate opens, he knows what to do. I anticipated him breaking fast today and putting his head in the game and the rest would be up to Johnny and Mind Control. He took the heat from (Souper Jackpot) down the backside. He was at his throatlatch the whole way and then the (Our Braintrust) came to him at the eighth pole and he spurted away. He's still green and learning. We're overwhelmed with this performance today. Of course, when you run like that, it's hard to fault the way he ran today."
Right: Mind Control heads back to the barn. Sacco added, "(The Withers) is in our backyard here at Belmont now where we're comfortable. He ran the way he has been training and we'll look forward to the next step. (About going into the Wood Memorial) With him being a Grade 1 winner (Hopeful), the Wood goes up to a million (purse bonus). We would take every race, race by race, but it certainly is appetizing and enticing."
Right: Mind Control in the the post parade. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "I wanted to put him in the race and make sure that I was in a good position where if someone was going crazy, I could just sit off the speed. I broke well and got the position I wanted in the first part of the race. I saw the other horse on the outside [Souper Jackpot], he didn't want to go, so I got close to him and by the turn we both came in and kind of sat there. Down the lane, I remember from Saratoga he opens up and he waits, so I waited until they came after him to get after him really hard and he responded really well. It seems like he galloped out okay. He put his ears up, it seems like he might handle the two turns pretty good."
Left: Second place finisher Our Braintrust heads out for the post parade. Jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. said, "I have a lot of faith in him. He's a nice sized horse and nice working since the beginning. I was a little concerned, he was coming from a little layoff. He ran hard last time and I was worried if he was going to show up and he did. That's a nice horse, the one who beat me. I thought for a second I was going to get there, but that horse in front (Mind Control), he gave me a little shot and that was it. My horse tried, took a shot, but couldn't make it."
Right: Third place finisher Family Biz returns after the race. The 4-1 third choice sat 5th 2 lengths off the pace under Dylan Davis then passed tired horses to get third beaten 5 1/2 lengths. The Edward Barker trainee improved his record to 1 win, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 5 starts, earning $91,400 for owners Danny Chen, James Cestaro, and Campbell Road Stables.