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Blog - GAMBLING

Overanalyze winning Futurity Stakes (G2). Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

The 61st running of the $400,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) features a near-capacity field of 11 hoping to secure the all-important points needed to make a start in the Kentucky Derby (G1) in nine weeks. Leading the field are a pair of horses that won Grade 2 stakes in their most recent races - Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Overanalyze and undefeated Jerome Stakes winner Vyjack. Jerome runner-up Siete de Oros subsequently finished third in the Withers Stakes (G3) and has shown competitive form against top 3-year-olds, as has Withers runner-up Escapefromreality and third-place finisher Amerigo Vespucci. Frank Whitely Stakes winner Ore Pass tries graded stakes competition for the first time and could be up to the task as well. The Gotham field also includes a trio of recent maiden winners who need to make their mark in the sophomore stakes division and might do just that based on the strength of their recent victories. This group is led by four-length winner Elnaawi and includes Now and Then as well as Transparent. Sky Captain runs in a stakes for the first time off a runner-up finish in an allowance race while maiden Champion Boy appears to be a bit overmatched in this spot. Last summer’s New York Breeders’ Futurity winner West Hills Giant rounds out the field, making his second start off a sprint comeback following a layoff and with room to improve.

Contenders:

Although Overanalyze and Vyjack both have stakes-winning credentials, I am going to give Elnaawi top billing to become the upset winner in the Gotham. One of three entrants in the race trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Elnaawi improved markedly when racing around two turns for the first time in January and in only the second start of his career. Earning a 97 Equibase Speed Figure in the process while easily prevailing by four lengths, Elnaawi could take a big step forward as 3-year-olds often do at this time of year. A half-brother to 2011 Pennsylvania Derby (G2) winner To Honor and Serve and as a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Elnaawi has all the credentials to run well from now until the gate opens on the first Saturday in May.

ELNAAWI'S MAIDEN WIN

Elnaawi Inside

Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA

Now and Then and Transparent form a coupled (for betting purposes) entry, both owned by Darley Stable and both trained by McLaughlin. Now and Then won his career debut on Jan. 20 in a six-furlong (three-quarters of a mile) race, so being asked to run around two turns for the first time and to go from maiden ranks to stakes company could be a tall order. However, considering that McLaughlin is not known for winning with first-time starters and considering how much better Elnaawi ran in his second start and first two-turn race than in his debut for the same trainer, Now and Then could improve markedly off his debut 95 Equibase Speed Figure, and that might be good enough to win the Gotham. Transparent tried two turns for the first time one race before last and ran into one of the top horses in the division in Revolutionary, who won the Withers Stakes in his next start. Transparent improved in his next race as well, easily prevailing by 5 3/4 lengths with a strong 90 Equibase Speed Figure that can be improved upon as well, making him a contender for top honors in the Gotham.

Vyjack is undefeated in three starts and has improved his Equibase Speed Figure in each race, from a 93 in his debut to 105 then to 106 when taking the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 5. Truthfully, Vyjack has no knocks and trainer Rudy Rodriguez secures the services of Joel Rosario, in from Florida, to ride, so this colt has every right to keep his perfect record intact in the Gotham. On the other hand, this will be a stern test considering how important the 50 points on the new Road to the Derby schedule are to the runners with no points to date whatsoever and it will take a top effort for Vyjack to succeed.

Overanalyze earned 10 points when winning the Remsen Stakes (G2) last November, two races after victory in the Futurity Stakes (G2), so there’s little doubt he fits with the best and should be a contender. That being said, there are two factors working against him in the Gotham. The first is that he draws the extreme outside post position, 12, for this two-turn race and when winning the Remsen was up close in second from the start. If similar tactics are chosen, Overanalyze will most likely lose ground for a good part of the race, which could make the difference versus other horses that run closer to the rail to save ground. Although his Remsen effort earned a career-best and field-high 115 Equibase Speed Figure, it was so far superior of an effort (19 points better than any previous race) that it must be taken with a grain of salt and particularly considering he has been away from the races for more than three months while others have raced in the past few weeks, Overanalyze may be a race or two away from duplicating that kind of effort. However, if he does I would probably label Overanalyze as my top Derby contender at this stage.

Escapefromreality has suffered from some tough luck in his two most recent starts, coming up a neck shy of victory in each, most recently in the Withers Stakes to arguably the top horse in the division in Revolutionary. Escapefromreality has done what is expected of a young horse in that he’s improved his Equibase Speed Figure in each race, going from an 88 in his debut to 95 to a 104 figure in the Withers that certainly puts him in the hunt for top honors if improved upon in the Gotham.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Amerigo Vespucci (101), Champion Boy (97), Ore Pass (95), Siete de Oros (106) and Sky Captain (90).

My Selections:

Elnaawi

Now and Then / Transparent (coupled entry)

Vyjack

 

$400,000 Gotham Stakes (G3)

Saturday, Race 10, Aqueduct, post time 5:02 p.m. EST

1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1

Champion Boy (KY)

E. Castro

116

J.C. Guerrero

2

Escapefromreality (NY)

D. Cohen

116

D. A. Schettino

3

Ore Pass (CA)

J. Pimentel

116

M. J. Trombetta

4

Amerigo Vespucci (KY)

E.D. Rodriguez

116

T. Tullock Jr.

5

Transparent (FLA)

I OrtizJr.

116

K.P. McLaughlin

6

Now and Then (KY)

J. Alvarado

116

K.P. McLaughlin

7

Siete de Oros (PA)

A.S. Arroyo

116

R. Preciado

8

Vyjack (KY)

J. Rosario

123

R.R. Rodriguez

9

Elnaawi (KY)

C. Hill

116

K.P. McLaughlin

10

Sky Captain (KY)

M. Mena

116

M. Casse

11

West Hills Giant. (NY)

J.L. Espinoza

116

J.P. Terranova III

12

Overanalyze (KY)

J.R. Velazquez

123

T.A. Pletcher

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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