SMARTLY AWAY, hot favourite Hieronymus took command from the outset, set moderate fractions, and then held off the late closing rally of Pixelate to take Saturday’s $75,000 Black Gold Stakes over 1700m at Fair Grounds by almost a length. It was the third consecutive local turf win for the Godolphin homebred who clearly relished the firm ground and was too strong for his four rivals. Having won an allowance race in December, trainer Brad Cox stepped the 3yo Girolamo colt in to Stakes company. Sent off favourite for the Randy Romero Memorial Stakes, Hieronymus made his Stakes debut a winning one, dominating four others with a facile victory.
Now a dual Stakes winner, Hieronymus is the winner of all bar one of his five starts with career earnings of $136,714. “He’s such a trying horse and he just always seems to get there,” winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan said. “They came at him and my horse just kept digging in and giving me his all. He’s a really gutsy horse.” Trainer Brad Cox added: “He’s a tough horse. When he turns for home and turns it on he’s hard to beat. “He deserves to be raised in grade again , perhaps the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, or the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. We will keep those races on our radar, gather our thoughts in the next couple of days and then form a plan.” Also a Godolphin homebred, Pixelate, making his first start since finishing a very pleasing third behind Bodecream in the $200,000 Texas Turf Mile in January at Sam Houston, closed with a real rush.
“Going into the race we wanted to be a little closer than he was last time,” jockey Mitchell Murrill said of the Texas Turf Mile, a race in which he closed from 12 lengths back. “I had him right where I wanted him to be and when it was time to move, we went outside and he gave me a few good spurts to get up near the lead, but every time we came up to Hieronymus, he just kept getting away from us.”