Samraat (outside, No. 1A) outfinished Uncle Sigh and In Trouble to win the $500,000 Gotham Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
Undefeated Samraat would not be denied on Saturday in the $500,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, where he battled bravely through a stretch-long duel with Uncle Sigh and In Trouble to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
The Grade 3 Gotham was worth 50 points for Samraat, who took over the top spot on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 60 points. Samraat is trained by Rick Violette for owner-breeder My Meadowview Farm.
“I'd be lying if I said we weren't already thinking [about the Kentucky Derby],” Violette said. “At this stage, we didn't want to do anything that would prevent us from going to the Derby. A couple of races before the Derby probably toughens him, but this was another stretch-long, hard duel. … He's an honest racehorse and there might be a little left.”
Samraat closed at a healthy 30.30-to-1 odds in the last of three Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, offering a nice return of $62.60 for a $2 bet should he win the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The odds were nowhere near that generous for the Gotham as Samraat was sent off as the favorite at 2.20-to-1 odds as part of a coupled entry along with Noble Cornerstone.
In Trouble led through an opening half-mile in :48.30 in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham with Uncle Sigh and Samraat tracking in second and third, respectively. The trio charged into the stretch with Samraat on the outside and Uncle Sigh between him and In Trouble on the rail.
None of the three was willing to give an inch through the stretch and the Gotham turned into a thrilling sprint for the finish line. Samraat, ridden by Jose Ortiz, had his head in front at the eighth pole and refused to surrender the lead in a determined win. He edged Uncle Sigh by a neck after defeating the same rival by a length in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes on Feb. 1.
“This is a real horse now,” Violette said. “We knew he had a shot to be a real horse after the Withers; he proved he is a real horse today. This was a good field. It was a deep field of horses.”
In Trouble was another neck behind Uncle Sigh in third.
Samraat completed 1 1/16 miles on Aqueduct’s inner main track in 1:44.44 for his fifth win in as many starts.
“He’s a magnificent horse, and that was some race,” said winning owner Leonard Riggio of My Meadowview Farm.
From the third crop of 2005 Florida Derby runner-up Noble Causeway, New York-bred Samraat has earned $583,200.
“Today, he graduated big time,” Violette said. “His last race was a terrific race and this was a notch above that. He was pretty impressive today. He leaves for Florida tomorrow. The [Grade 1] Wood [Memorial Stakes on April 5] is a real possibility. That would be our best option as long as the horse cooperates and tells us that we should get on a plane and come up for it.”
For an Equibase chart, click here.
SAMRAAT AFTER WINNING THE GOTHAM UNDER ORTIZ
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire