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15 FUN FACTS about The Jerome Stakes

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

By: Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

The Jerome Stakes and Ladies Handicap will be run January 6, 2024.

1. The Jerome Stakes appears to be the third oldest race in America still being run, having its first run in 1866, by WATSON  (USA) ch. H, 1863 {25}(Lexington).  It’s important to say “America” and not “North America,” for the Queens Plate was first run in 1860 and won by DON JUAN  (CAN) b. G, 1855 {a73}.  The only American thoroughbred horse races still run today that are older than the Jerome are the Phoenix Stakes (first run in 1831) and Travers Stakes, that is but a year older having been first run in 1865.  (Wikipedia erroneously states, “The Jerome is the second oldest stakes race in the United States behind the Travers Stakes.”—they clearly did not include the Phoenix).  It should be mentioned the Manhattan was first raced in 1867.

Pictured Below Morris Park: The second home of the Jerome (and Ladies Handicap, the Belmont Stakes, and the discontinued in 1984 Juvenile Stakes)

It ought to be mentioned, though many people do not consider it the same race, there was a Jersey Derby at Old Monmouth Park from 1864-1880.  Then in 1942 some 62 years later, another “Jersey Derby” was raced at Garden State Park, to be eventually run at the new Monmouth Park in 1999.  I have followed tradition and not used this race as “one still run today” with a starting date of 1864.

Pictured Below: The first meet at Jerome Park.  Note how jockeys sit on horses just as most “regular” riders of today–no standing in the stirrups. That change wouldn’t be till about 1897, with the “monkey crouch.”  

The Jerome is such an old race, that ARISTIDES (USA) ch. H, 1872 {A9}, a horse that won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, won the 10thedition of the Jerome.

2. BAYONET (USA) b. H, 1865 {9}(Lexington) won the third running of the race in 1868.  He was full-sibling to his PREAKNESS (USA) b. H, 1867 {9}, a winner of the “Dinner Party” stakes and from whom the Preakness Stakes would obtain his name.  The Dinner Party Stakes was the first running of the “Dixie Stakes,” and would only very recently be called the The Dinner Party Stakes again.  Preakness won that first running of the Dinner Party Stakes and the Preakness race was launched the next year.

3. I believe Bayonet had some horses with his blood for a few generations such as DUST BRUSH (USA) ch. M, 1922 {9-c}(Swing Loose) and DUST BRUSH (USA) ch. M, 1922 {9-c}.  There were horses as late as ANN FAN (USA) b. M, 1965 {9-c} with his blood, but it was a tiny threat in an obscure line. On the other hand, Bayonet and Preakness’ dam, BAY LEAF (USA) b. M, 1853 {9} lives on in every thoroughbred today through BRAMBLE  (USA) b. H, 1875 {9} (in all horses today), and many others.   The full sibling mare BAY FLOWER  (USA) b. M, 1859 {9} is responsible for most of these descendants.  Kentucky Derby winners RICH STRIKE   (USA) ch. C, 2019 {9}(Keen Ice) and HOOP JR.   (USA) b. H, 1942 {9}(Sir Gallahad) descended from Bay Leaf in tail female.

Pictured Below: Bayonet’s full younger brother, Preakness.

4. When Watson and Bayonet won the stakes, it was known as the “Champion Stakes,” and would not be known as the Jerome Stakes until later.

5. The Jerome has been run at four different race tracks, the Jerome Race Track, the Morris Park Race Track, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct.  According to Wikipedia, “The Jerome was first run at Jerome Park from 1866 to 1889, then at Morris Park Racecourse until 1905, at Belmont Park from 1906 to 1959 and 1968 to 2009, and also at Aqueduct Racetrack in 1960, from 1962 to 1967 and from 2011 to the present. There was no race run from 1910 to 1913 and there were two divisions from 1866 to 1870.”

Pictured below: Patrons watch the races from Jerome Park on a Hill. 

6. According to Wikipedia, Jerome Park’s “owner/members were led by financier Leonard W. Jerome and August Belmont, Sr.” Both have horse races named after them that still run today.  “The Belmont Stakes” and “Belmont Park” were named after the man, though many people erroneously think the race is named after the racetrack.

Pictured Below: Leonard W. Jerome

7. Lord Randolph Churchill married Jerome’s daughter, Jennie Jerome.  Lord Randolph Churchill and the eventual Jennie Jerome Churchill were the parents of the famous Winston Churchill.  So that is Winston Churchill’s connections to American horse racing.

Pictured below, Jennie Jerome

8. JAKLIN KLUGMAN  (USA) gr. H, 1977 {1-j} won the Jerome in 1980 and was owned by the actor that played “Oscar” on the television version of the Odd Couple, Jack Klugman. There is actually an episode of the Odd Couple where Oscar gets a greyhound to race, called “And leave the Greyhound to us?” which aired December 31, 1971.

9.  While the Jerome is one of the first races of the year and is on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, it used to run later in the year.  According to Wikipedia, “Up until 2009 the race was typically held in the fall at Belmont Park, after the major three-year-old classics.”  The Jerome was not run from 1910-1913, a dark period for New York horse racing, but when it returned to Belmont Park in 1914 it was run at 8 furlongs and has been run at 8 furlongs ever since. But the distances kept changing and there were 7 runnings when it was run at 2 miles (16 furlongs) and it was run 12 times at 14 furlongs or 1 ¾ miles.

A good history of the Jerome, but also incorrectly stating it is the second oldest race in America:

10. There has never been a walkover in the Jerome, but thrice it had a 2-horse field, 1881, 1887, and 1889, the last year it was raced at Jerome Park.  The 1887 edition was a battle between two future Hall of Fame Horses, first placed FIRENZE   (USA) b. M, 1884 {24}(Gleneg)(inducted in 1981) and second place (and last) HANOVER  (USA) ch. H, 1884 {21}(Hindoo).  At least 4 times Firenze faced off against Hanover in 1887, and both bested the other twice, although in the Omnibus stakes a horse named Laggard won.  Firenze’s sire GLENELG (USA) b. H, 1866 {26}(Citadel) won the 1869 running of the race 18 years prior to Firenze’s win, which was the fourth.  Citadel himself was as son of Stockwell.  Gleneg also sired the 1879 winner MONITOR  (USA) ch. G, 1876 {12-b}, who beat SPENDTHRIFT  (USA) ch. H, 1876 {A3}, a horse destined to be twice a leading sire and appearing multiple times in all modern thoroughbreds.

Pictured below Gleneg. Gleneg was leading sire in America in 1884, 1886, 1887, and 1888. 

11. Firenze also won a very old stakes race, the Ladies Handicap, still run today.  This year, the Ladies Stakes will be on the same card as the Jerome, January 6th at Aqueduct. The Ladies stakes is also unlisted, and like the Jerome and Belmont, was first run at Jerome Park, then Morris Park, then Belmont Park and then Aqueduct.  The Ladies Handicap was once a Grade 1 race.  Today, horses have to be four (and fillies or mares) to be entered in the Ladies Handicap, but Firenze won the race at age 3.  The Personal Ensign Stakes used to be called the Firenze Handicap.

Pictured below, Frienze. 

12. While the initial runnings of the Jerome Stakes (Champion Stakes in those days) was “1 mile,” they were run in heats.  In other words, the horses ran 1 mile several times.  They jumped to 16 furlongs in 1871 when Hall of Famer HARRY BASSETT   (USA) ch. H, 1868 {24} (Lexington) won it.  Harry Bassett’s younger brother

13. Though “on the Road to the Kentucky Derby” and worth 10 points, today the Jerome is an ungraded stakes race.  Despite that, Like the Ladies Handicap, it was once a very prestigious race to have won.

VIDEO BELOW: TINAJERO   (USA) gr. H, 1968 {3-l}(Decidedly), a horse inducted into the Puerto Rican Hall of Fame and stood at Sagamore Farm in Maryland, wins the 1971 Jerome Handicap.  Two years later, when stakes races first started being graded, it would be a Grade 2.  It was his 7thwin in a row and United States debut.  Tinajero would also be second in that year’s Woodward Stakes.

14. The Ladies Stakes, formerly known as the Ladies Handicap (when it was a handicap and not a weight-for-age race), first run in 1868, is an older race than the Preakness Stakes, first run in 1873, and the Kentucky Derby, first run in 1875.  It is only 1 year less old than the Belmont, which was first run 1865.  Thus, in America, only the Phoenix Stakes (1831)(then the “Association Stakes), the Jerome Stakes (1866), and the Belmont Stakes (1867), then the Ladies Stakes (or Ladies Handicap) which was first run in 1868.  The King’s Plate in Canada (formerly the Queen’s Plate), the second oldest race in North America, was first run in 1860.  Of note, while the Phoenix Stakes has had a bunch of missed years, it has run 156 times.

15. Lexington sired 8 winners of the Jerome Stakes, and I can identify one horse that descended in tail male from him, BARRETT(USA) b. H, 1887 {A10}.  The early Jerome races were teeming with Lexington sired horses, and when that disappeared, Lexington was in the blood of through daughters.  Lexington constantly sired the winners and the horses in the money in the early running of the Jerome.

True, the Jerome Stakes (formerly the Jerome Handicap) and the Ladies Stakes (formerly the Ladies Handicap) are a small-shell of their former selves.  But I say let them race on–I would rather have the stakes race continue for tradition’s sake, albeit ungraded and with small purses. I am thankful the Jerome is on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The New Year’s son “For auld lang syne” is Scottish (save for the first word) for “for old time sake.”  It was a mistake to drop the Juvenile Stake in 1984.  I am glad the Jerome and Ladies Stakes live on.  The Belmont Stakes?  Well, it will have a glorious rendition this year at Saratoga with a $2 million purse.

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