Strapping Groom shows new dimension in Tom Fool
By Jon Forbes | 03/01/2014 03:56 PM ET
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese/Chelsea Durand
In four previous stakes victories, Strapping Groom had set or pressed the pace. On Saturday, the 7-year-old used a new strategy when he made up a two-length deficit to win Aqueduct Racetrack's Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for sprinters 3-years-old and up.
Strapping Groom, who had won Saratoga Race Course's Grade 1 Forego in August, raced in second in the opening furlong before dropping back to third as Dads Caps and Jake N Elwood battled through an opening quarter-mile in 22.56 seconds and a half in 45.23 seconds. Irad Ortiz, Jr. swung Strapping Groom outside at the top of the stretch, and the even-money favorite gradually gained on the top two before taking the lead in the final sixteenth and going on to a one-length triumph.
Dads Caps finished second, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Saturday's Charm, who overtook Jake N Elwood for third.
The final time for six furlongs was 1:09.85, with Strapping Groom returning $4.30 for a $2 win wager.
"He came out [of the gate] a little slow and [trainer David Jacobson] told me to put him in the race," said Ortiz. "When I got clear in the stretch, he took off. He was ready today; [Jacobson] did a great job with him."
Jacobson owns Strapping Groom in partnership with Drawing Away Stable. Since the tandem claimed Strapping Groom for $35,000 in May 2013, the son of Johannesburg has won five of nine starts. Strapping Groom entered the Tom Fool off a 6 ½-length score in the Gravesend Handicap on December 31.
"We thought we'd be closer to the pace [in the Tom Fool]," said Jacobson. "Being down on the inside we wanted to get out of there, but the way he ran from off the pace today is another dimension he has."
Strapping Groom earned $120,000 for his Tom Fool victory. He is 10-6-2 in 27 career starts, with $916,713 in earnings.
"With the training schedules we've had because of the severe winter, he wasn't the fittest horse today, but when I saw the fractions I said, 'We might have a shot,'" Jacobson said. "This was all going through my mind in a split second. He's a good horse, and he's one of the better sprinters on the East Coast, if not in the country right now, in my opinion."
Strapping Groom will be considered for the Grade 1, $500,000 Carter Handicap on April 5 at Aqueduct, according to Jacobson.
Non Stop, Candyman E, and Sensational Slam completed the order of finish.