OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- As he watched the Jerome unfold on television from his home in south Florida and saw Justin Phillip range outside of his 3-year-old Adios Charlie, trainer and part-owner Stanley Hough was going to be happy if his horse could hang on for second.
On this day, in the sloppy stretch of Aqueduct's main track, Adios Charlie would have none of that. Re-breaking under Rajiv Maragh after surrendering the lead to Justin Phillip, Adios Charlie powered past Justin Phillip at the sixteenth pole and drew clear to a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome. Astrology rallied to nip Justin Phillip for second by a neck.
The win was the second from three starts for Adios Charlie, a son of Indian Charlie who is not nominated to the Triple Crown and thus is unlikely to be pointed to the Preakness on May 21.
Hough, who owns a quarter-interest in Adios Charlie - Robert Sahn owns the remaining 75 percent - always been high on Adios Charlie, but had to be patient after the colt suffered a stress fracture in a hind leg following his debut last fall.
Maragh employed a bit of patience himself during the running of the Jerome, which he felt was the key to victory.
After breaking on top, Adios Charlie settled into second position, stalking favored Cal Nation through a quarter-mile in 23.31 seconds and a half-mile in 47.12. Adios Charlie put a nose in front of Cal Nation at the three-eighths pole, but was confronted from the outside by Justin Phillip, who appeared to be just cruising under Ramon Dominguez.
Justin Phillip turned into the stretch with the lead, and appeared like he would edge away at the eighth pole. But he drifted out slightly inside the final furlong, and Maragh, knowing he had some horse left aboard Adios Charlie, rallied inside the sixteenth pole to get the victory.
"Going into the turn [Justin Phillip] started ranging up pretty strong but I felt like for my horse the best thing to do was not go all out at that point in the race," Maragh said. "I felt like if I went with him and we both started slowing up at the end somebody might beat us both. I didn't feel like it was the right time to go when Justin Phillip moved, so I waited a little more. I made my stretch run and my horse had a lot left in the end."
Adios Charlie covered the mile in 1:36.81 and returned $14.60 as the fifth choice in the eight-horse field.
"When that horse went by him, I was hoping he would hold on for second," Hough said. "But he dug down and dug back when he asked him. He really ran great."
Since it would cost $100,000 to supplement Adios Charlie to a race like the Preakness, Hough said the $200,000 Peter Pan on May 14 at Belmont is more likely where the colt would start next.
"This was a big step forward," Hough said. "We'll take this one in and see what's next."
The connections of Astrology were using the Jerome as a possible prep for the Preakness. If they listen to jockey Mike Smith, they still might go despite losing Saturday.
Smith said that Astrology hit his head on the gate before the start of the race, opening the doors in front of him. When the gates opened for real, Astrology raced a close-up third along the inside, dropped back a little bit on the far turn but then came again in the stretch while rallying wide.
"I was proud of him, I thought he ran great," Smith said. "It's the kind of race where I look forward to the next one."
Racing is dark in New York until Friday, when Belmont Park opens.