By Gene Kershner
The blog is back this weekend after taking a one-week hiatus due to the focus on last week's print article as we kicked off the Derby trail on TBN. I was keen on both General a Rod (second in Fountain of Youth) and Intense Holiday (Risen Star winner), but disappointed in Hoppertunity's performance in the Risen Star. Looks like its back to the drawing board for trainer Bob Baffert.
This weekend the Derby trail finds it way back to New York and Aqueduct Racetrack for the Gotham Stakes, a Grade 3 race over 1 1/6 miles on the Big A's inner dirt track.
Some noteworthy goings on over the thoroughbred racing landscape…
- The Gotham features a Withers rematch between 1A-Samraat (5/2), who is running in a coupled entry, and 4-Uncle Sigh (3-1). Both horses are trained by NY-based trainers, Samraat by Richard Violette, Jr. and Uncle Sigh by Gary Contessa. It would be nice to see one of those fine trainers have a horse in the gate on the First Saturday in May.
- I'm leaning towards 8-Extrasexyhipzster (4-1), trained by Michael Trombetta. He's coming off two non-graded stakes wins, one an impressive win on the inner in December in the $100K Don Rickles. I think he handles the additional distance and storms onto the Derby scene.
- Hard to believe a Pletcher-trained horse on the Derby trail has a morning line of 10-1, but 10-Harpoon, who was supposedly being pointed at the Tampa Bay Derby, was shipped back north to run in this spot. Maybe it's the outside post that had morning line maker Eric Donovan assigning a higher number. His nose loss to Vinceremos in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in Tampa earlier in the month at the same distance warrants him a closer look.
- Good news that Fox Sports 1 has added the Santa Anita Handicap (aka the Big Cap) to its lineup and will televise the big race next weekend. The Big Cap will feature a Breeders' Cup Classic rematch between Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, not to mention Game On Dude, who will be looking to avenge his disappointing loss last November. The $750,000 Grade 1 race that was first run in 1935 should set the stage for an exciting year in the handicap division.
- Speaking of television, Horseplayers, the reality show on the Esquire Network, is moving from Tuesdays to Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET starting on Mar. 5. It's one you won't want to miss as the tournament scene shifts to Upstate New York and the Saratoga Race Course.
- Volume II of the Wireplayers.com website's Derby Dozen was released on Wednesday and Top Billing has just that in this week's list. Each panelist's picks can be found at this link, including mine and another Western New York handicapper who goes by the moniker, The Turk.
- Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is open and runs through Saturday at 6 p.m.