Mind Control answered questions about whether he belonged on the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail when he drew off to victory in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct.

The winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga during the summer ran into a variety of problems which resulted in a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. When it became clear to trainer Greg Sacco that shipping was difficult for Mind Control, he made the correct decision to stay in New York and race at Aqueduct.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rode Mind Control at Saratoga and Sacco got him to fly up from Florida and take the mount back.

“I didn’t want Johnny to take a hold of him,” explained Sacco. “Johnny is so smart, once the gate opens, he knows what to do. I anticipated him breaking fast today and putting his head in the game and the rest would be up to Johnny and Mind Control.”

The result was a 1½ – length gate-to-wire victory for the son of Stay Thirsty who easily turned back the early pressure from the Mark Casse runner Souper Jackpot.

The next step on the Derby trail for Mind Control after this win in the one-turn mile will be to try two-turns. In New York, that would be the Withers, which means a test at a mile and an eighth on February 2.

“It’s in our backyard here at Belmont now where we’re comfortable,” said Sacco. “He ran the way he has been training and we’ll look forward to the next step.”

The ultimate goal on the Derby trail in New York would be the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 6. Looking ahead Sacco added, “With him being a Grade 1 winner, the Wood goes up to a million [via a purse bonus]. We would take every race, race by race, but it certainly is appetizing and enticing.”

Mind Control added his name to the list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls who have won secured their first 10 qualifying points.

Photo of Mind Control courtesy of NYRA/Chelsea Durand