Noble Moon, making his first start around two turns, sat off just the early pace, took the lead on the backstretch, and repelled multiple bids en route to a two-length victory over Classic Giacnroll in the 144th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
After racing in second early behind long shot Pin and Win through an opening quarter in 24.07 seconds, Noble Moon claimed the top spot while racing under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.'s tight hold with 4 1/2 furlongs remaining after the early pacesetter gave way.
Pressed by Master Lightning and Classic Giacnroll through a half in 48.34 and three quarters in 1:13.50, Noble Moon began to assert himself when put to a drive by Ortiz turning for home, with Classic Giacnroll chasing in vain in the stretch and Master Lightning dropping out of contention.
“He broke a little slowly, but then he put me in the race,” said Irad Ortiz, whose brother, Jose, won the $100,000 Busanda with Fierce Boots two races earlier. “He's got a big, long stride. I asked him at the quarter-pole and he picked it right up.”
Noble Moon completed one mile and 70 yards over the inner track in 1:45.08 and returned $3.60 for a $2 win wager as the 4-5 favorite. He has now won two of three starts, with the $120,000 winner's share of the Jerome purse lifting his earnings to $193,000. He earned 10 points toward a potential start in the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
“I told [jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.], ‘If he gets out and gets a clear lead and can do it easily, great. If somebody else wants it, let them have it and get outside,'” said Leah Gyarmati, who trains Noble Moon for Treadway Racing. “And then, all of a sudden, there was a second wave of horses on him. I just kept thinking back to his maiden win when I thought that he might get a little leg weary, but he didn't want to let anybody by him.”
In his debut, Noble Moon won a six-furlong Belmont Park maiden race gate-to-wire from the rail by three-quarters of a length on September 14. He rallied from 12th and last when finishing third in the Grade 2, one-mile Nashua on November 3 on the main track at Aqueduct and was scratched from the Grade 2 Remsen on November 30 at the Big A after having an allergic reaction the night before the race.
“It's a good sign that he can win and go two turns and fight them off, whether he's on the lead or not,” said Gyarmati. “As a rider, you can maneuver him, so that's always handy. He's going to have to step it up again, obviously, because there are some nice horses out there beyond Aqueduct.”
Gyarmati said Noble Moon may skip the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 1 at Aqueduct in favor of training up to the Big A's Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham on March 1. Gyarmati and owner Jeff Treadway also campaign Street Gent, a 3-year-old who broke his maiden on December 1 at Aqueduct and could start in the Withers.
Classic Giacnroll finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Scotland, who held off Matuszak, Lawmaker, and Mental Iceberg in a blanket finish for third. Master Lightning and Pin and Win completed the order of finish.
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