Happy New Year! The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on New Year’s Day with the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, a one-mile test that has attracted seven newly-turned 3-year-olds.

RELATED: Independence Hall an overwhelming favorite in Jerome

Top Jerome Stakes Picks

  • #3 Independence Hall
  • #1 Prince of Pharoahs
  • #7 Bourbon Bay
  • #2 Inside Risk

$5 trifecta: 3 with 1,7 with 1,2,7

The Jerome Stakes contenders

#1 Prince of Pharoahs never challenged in his debut on turf, but impressed going a mile on dirt at Belmont, leading all the way to beat fellow New York-breds by five lengths. Son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is one of just two runners proven over the Jerome distance and fired off a bullet workout on December 18. Looms a front-running threat.

#2 Inside Risk was soundly beaten in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and Grey Stakes (G3), but has since been gelded and drops in class for the Jerome.  Needs to step up his game, but this son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense has the pedigree to handle a mile and should appreciate the return to dirt.

#3 Independence Hall dominated the November 3 Nashua Stakes (G3) over this track and distance, winning by 12 ¼ lengths in 1:34.66 seconds, both stakes records. The 101 Brisnet speed rating he received towers over this field, and he’s been training forwardly for the Jerome. Independence Hall retains the services of Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz and could probably win with his B-game.

#4 Dubai Bobby broke his maiden for a $40,000 claiming tag on grass at Belmont, but never challenged when facing allowance company on November 27 at Aqueduct. His lone run on dirt produced a seventh-place finish with a modest 67 Brisnet speed rating. Looks to be in deep, and this distance may stretch his stamina.

#5 Polar Bear Pete benefited from a perfect pace setup toromp in his debut for a $75,000 claiming tag at Belmont Park. He subsequently came up short by 4 ½ lengths in a slow allowance race at Aqueduct, posting a 75 Brisnet speed rating. Needs to improve in the speed figure department, but could be a fringe contender for the superfecta.

#6 Celtic Striker caught a sloppy, sealed track at Monmouth to break his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion on October 27. Stretches out from six furlongs to a mile for the Jerome, but figures to face pace pressure from Prince of Pharoahs and Independence Hall. Trainer Raymond Handal is just 1-for-25 at Aqueduct so far this meet.

#7 Bourbon Bay has demonstrated a sharp turn-of-foot sprinting against New York-breds at Aqueduct, most recently breaking his maiden by 2 ¼ lengths on December 5. He’s second-best behind Independence Hall in terms of Brisnet speed ratings and is bred to stretch out since sire Bayern won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and damsire Street Sense claimed the Kentucky Derby. A logical threat with hot jockey Jose Lezcano (a 22% winner at Aqueduct) in the saddle.