The Lumber Guy Kicks Away in Jerome
By Dick Downey
The Grade II Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct was won by The Lumber Guy, who outfinished Brigand after the two vied for the lead beyond the top of the stretch.
The Lumber Guy held a slim lead through the first six furlongs, running through fractions of :22.98, :45.83 and 1:10.88. The rest of the field bided its time, and something was expected to put in a closing kick.
Term Loan tried to get past them approaching the turn, but he couldn't keep up, and The Lumber Guy, with Brigand to his outside, continued to dominate the short field.
Leaving the turn, Brigand and Corey Nakatani looked like they would run past The Lumber Guy. But the latter one, with Mike Luzzi aboard, wouldn't yield.
Approaching the wire, The Lumber Guy was easing away. His winning margin was 2 3/4 lengths, and he was timed in 1:36.04 for the mile. Brigand stayed on for second, with Stirred Up, who trailed the field early, getting up for third, another three lengths back. They were followed by Dan and Sheila, Adirondack King and Term Loan. Right to Vote was scratched.
Mike Hushion trains the winner for Barry Schwartz. It was the fourth career start for The Lumber Guy, who cut back in distance after finishing fifth in the Grade I Wood Memorial.
Bred in New York by Stonewall Farm, The Lumber Guy is a son of the late Grand Slam out of the Unbridled's Song mare Boltono.
From the $200,000 purse, The Lumber Guy picked up $120,000 and pushed his graded earnings total to $150,000, insufficient to make the Kentucky Derby field. No other starter in the Jerome can make the Derby, either.
Michael Hushion, winning trainer: “Usually I get cold feet as it gets closer to the race, but I really didn’t with him. Every morning I came in, his hay rack was empty and he’s standing in front of the stall, bright. When you have a big, strong horse with a lot of talent, I think they can make you do a lot of things, and you still look like you know what you are doing. His gallop out looked good to me – from what I saw quickly – so I don’t know about distance limitations. I guess that 36 flat is going to come up a nice time. Getting to the two-turn thing is a bridge we’re going to have to cross sometime pretty soon. Today, he showed what we were hoping he would show. When he got his head in front, his stride just opened up. His stride looked awfully good down the backside. He’s a nice, big mover. Mike did a nice job nursing his speed. Really good job.”
Mike Luzzi, winning rider: “That was cool. Not knowing the horse and just going by what Michael had said, he’s real fast. I didn’t want to warm him up too much to where he was too speedy. He left clean, he was in my hands. It felt slower than it was, honestly. It wasn’t out-of-control speed. He’s just a talented horse. I know the fractions might have said differently, but to me it felt like we went slower and it felt like I still had a lot left [in the stretch]. He galloped out good, too.”