By Gene Kershner
The Kentucky Derby Championship Series looks toward the Big Apple this weekend and the $400,000 Grade 2 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday afternoon. The third of eight races in the First Leg of the Championship Series races will provide an opportunity to significantly move up on the leaderboard. The top four finishers will be awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 basis.
The race has drawn 12 colts seeking to gain a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Last weekend saw Orb (Fountain of Youth) and long shot Ive Struck a Nerve (Risen Star) move to the top of the Derby points standings with 50 and 51 points, respectively.
The top challengers in the Gotham include Grade 2 winners Overanalyze (Remsen) and Vyjack (Jerome) and the runnerup in the Grade 3 Withers, Escapefromreality, who finished a neck behind Revolutionary. Hall of Famer John Velazquez heads north from Gulfstream Park to grab the mount of Overanalyze, owned by Repole Stable. You may remember that Repole saddled Grade 1 stakes winners Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty on the 2010 Derby trail.
Let's take a look at the field (trainer, jockey, morning line odds and post position [pp] in parenthesis) for the Gotham to be raced at 1 1/16 miles on the winterized inner track:
1 - Transparent (McLaughlin, Ortiz Jr., 8-1, pp5) The Bernardini colt broke his maiden late last month on the inner winning impressively by over five lengths. He finished eight lengths behind Revolutionary two races back. He's part of a coupled entry and looking elsewhere.
1A - Now and Then (McLaughlin, Alvarado, 8-1, pp6) Second half of entry, who won his debut race on the inner last month. Seems to be training well and is by Tiznow, so he certainly should enjoy the stretch out in his first route race. Promising colt who could be an upset threat.
2 - Champion Boy (Guerrero, Castro, 30-1, pp1) Big Brown progeny who draws the rail as a long shot hopeful. He has an intriguing pedigree with turf sire El Prado (IRE)on his dam's side. Colt finished fifth in the Withers and third behind the 1A in his maiden voyage.
3 - Escapefromreality (Schettino, Cohen, 6-1, pp2) The Read the Footnotes gelding sports some solid works coming off his valiant effort in the Withers. Has some stamina on his dam side as Medaglia d'Oro is his dam's sire. Has the top speed figure at the distance and looks to move forward in his second route race. Dangerous.
4 - Ore Pass (Trombetta, Pimentel, 12-1, pp3) He's by freshman sire War Pass, and comes off a non-graded stakes win at Laurel Park. Has yet to duplicate the big fig he tossed out in his maiden win last November. This one seems to be a big step up in class. Pass (no pun intended).
5 - Amerigo Vespucci (Tullock Jr., Rodriguez, 20-1, pp4) Has finished behind the top contenders in here in his last two graded stakes at the Big A and has one point in the Derby standings earned via his fourth place finish in the Withers. Would only look to use underneath in the tri or super as others seem more logical.
6 - Siete de Oros (Preciado, Arroyo, 15-1, pp7) He was only two lengths behind the winner of the Withers after yielding the lead in the stretch. He's only missed the board once in six career efforts, that being his debut at Parx. The A.P. Warrior colt was a $2,000 purchase and already has over $138K in lifetime earnings. His late leakage in the Withers indicates he may be more of a miler, but his trainer does well with routers, so I'm on the fence.
7 - Vyjack (Rodriguez, Rosario, 3-1, pp8) Rudy's been killing 'em during the inner meet, winning at a 30 percent clip and this is the star of his barn. He recruits top jockey Joel Rosario to leave Gulfstream for the weekend. His sire Into Mischief performed well on the Derby trail before suffering an injury that kept him out of the Derby. It will be hard to bet against the red-hot Rodriguez. Win threat.
8 - Elnaawi (McLaughlin, Hill, 8-1, pp9) Street Sense colt makes his third career start after breaking his maiden in a win over a muddy Big A track in early January. He's a half brother of To Honor and Serve. McLaughlin administers lasix for the first time. Looking for big things from this one.
9 - Sky Captain (Casse, Mena, 8-1, pp10) Ships up from Gulfstream to take a shot at a Derby gate. Lost last out to Cerro who didn't fare well in the Fountain of Youth last weekend, where he faded to sixth. Connections have to be respected and he comes in third off the layoff on the form cycle.
10 - West Hills Giant (Terranova, Espinoza, 20-1, pp11) New York-bred steps up in class to take on a much tougher crew than he's raced. Has been working well and comes in off the layoff, and trainer Terranova adds blinkers to shake things up. This appears to be a big stretch.
11 - Overanalyze (Pletcher, Velazquez, 5-2, pp12) The favorite drew the outside post, the same one that Hansen was in to win last year's edition. Was rested by Pletcher and emerges to capture valuable Derby points. Hard to discount the Pletcher/Velazquez factor, meaning he may go off around even money on the tote board. Lot of Pletcher hype on the trail, this one will be watched widely. Think he gets nipped at the wire.
Post Time Outlook: 1 - Escapefromreality; 2 - Overanalyze; 3 - Vyjack; 4 -Elnaawi