OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Two years after El Areeb dominated the Jerome Stakes by 11 1/2 lengths, his trainer, Cal Lynch, is back with another promising colt he hopes can take him a little farther down the Triple Crown trail.
Lynch is bringing Our Braintrust to Aqueduct from Maryland for Tuesday’s $150,000 Jerome, the first race in 2019 for 3-year-olds that offers qualifying points to the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
While the Jerome no longer possesses graded status – it was a Grade 3 when El Areeb won it in 2017 – it offers 17 qualifying points to the Derby (10-4-2-1) to its top four finishers. El Areeb never made it to Louisville, injuring a knee while working toward the Wood Memorial that spring.
“El Areeb was one of the best horses I had my hands on, period,” Lynch said by phone Wednesday from Maryland. “He was a real good athlete. This horse has shown me a lot of the same qualities. That’s why we’re leaning toward taking a shot up there. I usually don’t like taking one up there unless they’re doing enough down here to show me they warrant it.”
Our Braintrust, a Maryland-bred son of Freud, has already shipped to New York and won, taking the Tremont Stakes at Belmont on June 8 for his second victory in as many starts. Since Our Braintrust was a May 3 foal – he won his career debut at Laurel on his actual second birthday – Lynch was planning to freshen the colt for the summer. That decision was made easier for him when Our Braintrust developed a shin issue.
Our Braintrust returned to the races on Dec. 8 in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, finishing second to Alwaysmining. That horse is entered back in Saturday’s Heft Stakes, a seven-furlong race at Laurel.
Lynch felt that Alwaysmining benefitted from a speed-favoring Laurel surface in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and added that Our Braintrust came out of the race with some mucus in his lungs.
Lynch said he opted for the Jerome over the Heft because he preferred the mile distance and he wanted to see how Our Braintrust would handle Aqueduct, thinking about races like the Withers, Gotham, or Wood Memorial, which offer Derby points early in 2019.
Also, Lynch said, “I didn’t want to sprint him again.”
“The track here has gotten so fast, I didn’t want to get in a speed duel,” he said. “I think he wants to sit there and make one run.”
Our Braintrust worked 1 1/8 miles – once around Laurel’s main track – on Dec. 19 and came back with a half-mile move in 47.80 seconds on Wednesday. It was the fastest of 30 drills at that distance.
Our Braintrust, whom Lynch owns with Stanton Smith, was to ship to Aqueduct on Saturday and train a couple of mornings over the main track. Jorge Vargas Jr. will ride.
Entries for the Jerome, part of a rare Tuesday Aqueduct card, will be taken on Saturday. Others expected for the race include Mind Control, the Grade 1 Hopeful winner; Souper Jackpot, runner-up in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream; Direct Order; Family Biz; Gates of Dawn; and possibly Too Much Johnnie.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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