Demanding Value Betting a Highly Competitive Gotham Stakes

Horseplayers peruse the field from the paddock rail at Aqueduct in this ABR file photo. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Well, the road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve got a lot more interesting this weekend as all four qualifying points races drew at least 10 entrants and the $300,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, which we’ll evaluate here, drew a full field of 14 plus one also-eligible entrant.

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, March 2: 3-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Friday, March 3: 3-4:30 p.m. on FS1; 4:30-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Saturday, March 4: 4-6 p.m. on CNBC; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Sunday, March 5: 3-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

It would appear that March 4 is the first true moving day on the Derby trail as trainers are getting serious about qualifying for the run for the roses, and the Gotham Stakes as a one-turn mile presents an interesting challenge.

Two things jumped out at me immediately. First, there is plenty of speed entered. It looks like trainers who wonder if distance might eventually be an issue targeted this race as a spot to pick up some points. Second, there are six unbeaten 3-year-olds entered. Granted, two are coming off debut wins, but #2 Howgreatisnate ships in from Fair Hill Training Center with a 4-for-4 record as does #14 Recruiter from the same facility but a different barn. Both extended their winning streaks to four with stakes wins sprinting at Parx Racing.

#7 Transect is unbeaten in two races for Paulo Lobo while shipping into Aqueduct from Turfway Park while #13 Eyeing Clover comes from Fair Grounds with a 2-for-2 record for trainer Brad Cox.

Add in debut winners #3 Mr. Swagger and #4 Uncorrelated, Jerome Stakes winner #10 Lugan Knight, Los Alamitos Futurity runner-up #5 Carmel Road, and highly touted #11 Slip Mahoney (another Brad Cox trainee) and you’ve got the makings of a heck of a race.

In a race like this, it’s all about identifying value. I’m looking for a runner who can come from just off the pace and won’t mind a forecast with some rain in it and I landed on #11 Slip Mahoney as my top pick. But … I’m going to demand some value. If he gets hammered down to low odds by bettors, my plan is to adjust on the fly.

Other contenders I’ll be closely watching the odds on include #4 Uncorrelated, who won from just off the pace in his debut on a sloppy track at Aqueduct for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown; #8 Fort Warren, who was transferred from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to Brittany Russell for this race and enters off a third-place finish from off the pace in the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park; and #14 Recruiter coming off a 2 ¾-length win on a sloppy track in the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile Stakes in January. I think Fort Warren, by Curlin, is significantly better than he showed in the San Vicente, can use his tactical speed to be close to the front in the Gotham, and should relish some moisture in the ground.

This group of four – #4 Uncorrelated, #8 Fort Warren, #11 Slip Mahoney, and #14 Recruiter – boasts tactical speed and should also handle or excel on an “off” track if it rains Saturday. Remember, it is smart to let the odds help guide your betting strategy on raceday.

Betting strategy on a $10 budget:

$10 to win on #11 Slip Mahoney at odds of 6-1 or higher ($10)

What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, Race 9, $10 to win on #11

Betting strategy on a $30 budget:

$3 exacta: 8,11 with 4,8,11,14 ($18)

What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, Race 9, $3 exacta part wheel, 8,11 with 4,8,11,14

$1 trifecta: 8,11 with 4,8,11,14 with 4,8,11,14 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, Race 9, $1 trifecta part wheel, 8,11 with 4,8,11,14 with 4,8,11,14

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