(Trainer Brad Cox will saddle Hieronymus for the Randy P. Romero Memorial Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
It’s not often you get 12-1 odds on a Brad Cox-trained allowance winner, but such was the case when Godolphin LLC’s Hieronymus crossed the line first over the Fair Grounds turf on December 28. As the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Randy P. Romero Memorial Overnight Stakes, the son of Girolamo is certain to attract much more attention.
Named in honor of the Hall of Fame jockey, Louisiana native and fan favorite who passed away in late August at the age of 61, the $60,000 Randy P. Romero Memorial Overnight Stakes (formerly Captain Maestri) for three-year-olds will be contested over one mile of turf. Randy’s son, Randy Jr., and several members of the Romero family will be in attendance to present the trophy to the winning connections.
A maiden winner at first asking over the Ellis Park lawn on August 11, Hieronymus would not be seen again for more than three months. In that first-level allowance race over a yielding Churchill turf on November 21, he showed speed to the top of the stretch and then faded to finish eighth of ten.
“He came down with a two-year-old bug after the maiden win,” Cox explained. “He got over it, but he went awhile without a work. He came back a little blah but he was sound and we needed to run to find out where we were with him. He ran a dismal race at Churchill but the course was pretty soft that day, like it always in the fall.”
Vanned down to New Orleans shortly thereafter, Hieronymus got back to work.
“His first breeze back at Fair Grounds was just OK, but then he kind of turned it on,” Cox said. “We started to see the Hieronymus that we saw in the summer and he ran like it.”
On the lead nearly every step of the way for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Hieronymus thwarted the challenge of Blackberry Wine and then held off the late bid of Bodecream to score a ½ length win over that foe. Blackberry Wine is being considered for the Risen Star (G2) off a follow-up allowance victory, and Bodecream returned take down the Texas Turf Mile Stakes at Sam Houston in his next start.
“He surprised us a little bit, but we’ve liked him from the start,” Cox said. “We’ve seen more of the same since, so I’m confident we will get a good effort out of him on Saturday.
Another obvious contender in the Romero is BG Stables’ Duke of Carthania. Following a pair of solid turf efforts to begin his career, the son of Constitution broke through with a maiden score over the Fair Grounds green on December 19 for trainer Mark Casse.
“He’s by Constitution, who is a son of Tapit, so he can get a little bit hot,” assistant trainer David Carroll admitted. “He’s certainly a work in progress but he’s come a long way. He used to worry and fret over everything and he could get a little worked up in his stall, but he’s growing out of that.”
“He’s going to keep getting better with experience,” Carroll continued. “He won quite nicely at Fair Grounds and then got a little bit sick on us, so we backed off of him. We geared him up again and took a look at the Randy Romero. We feel like he’s doing very well and we will take our chances.”
With named rider Adam Beschizza currently in the midst of a 15-day suspension, Carroll stated that Miguel Mena will be given the call aboard the 7-2 second choice Duke of Carthania.
A winner of two of three lifetime starts on turf, Anton Kubacak’s Perfect Star enters the Romero off a disappointing tenth in the Lecomte (G3) on dirt for trainer Scott Gelner and regular rider Robby Albarado. Returning to his preferred surface with darkened form, he could be poised for a mild upset.
Completing the field for the Randy P. Romero Overnight Stakes with jockey, trainer and morning line odds are: Louie Rousel III’s Kunal (Murrill/Roussel III at 5-1); P. Dale Ladner’s Jack the Umpire (C. Hernandez/Brinkman at 5-1); Gary M. Scherer and Robert Bernacki’s Richard Ronald (Geroux/G. Scherer at 8-1); and Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s The Gray Blur (Morales/C. Davis at 6-1).