2019 Gotham Stakes Cheat Sheet

Instagrand, Knicks Go, and Mind Control (left to right) headline a competitive eight-horse field set for Saturday’s Gotham Stakes. (BENOIT Photo/Eclipse Sportswire/Eclipse Sportswire)

The Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham Stakes is a one-mile race on March 9 at Aqueduct that serves as a prep for both the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes on April 6 and the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4.

The Gotham is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race that offers the winner 50 qualifying points, essentially guaranteeing the victor a spot in the Derby starting gate, with 20 points to the runner-up, 10 to the third-place finisher, and five points for fourth.

The Gotham Stakes, along with the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks, will be showcased during a three-hour telecast of “Fox Sports Saturday At The Races” presented by America's Best Racing, Runhappy and Claiborne Farm on FS2 from 4 to 7 p.m. ET.

The Gotham has served as a springboard to stardom for many standouts since it was first held in 1953, including 1967 winner Dr. Fager, 1973 victor Secretariat and 1989 winner Easy Goer.

Let’s take a closer look at the field for the 2019 edition of the Gotham.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

1. Family Biz           

Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Trainer: Edward Barker

Owners: Danny J. Chen, James Cestaro, and Campbell Road Stables

Career record: 7 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $104,855

Earnings per start: $14,979

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Pedigree: Fed Biz – I’mclassyandsassy, by Master Command

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: With multiple speedy entrants for the one-mile Gotham, you can understand Family Biz’s connections taking a chance in here with a closer, even though his speed figures indicate he’d need to take a major step forward to be competitive. Based upon his previous results in stakes competition – beaten by 5 ½ lengths when third in the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 1 and fourth by 4 ½ lengths in the Feb. 9 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes – Family Biz might need a pace meltdown to have a shot at a top-three finish against a very solid group that features a pair of highly regarded West Coast invaders. From the first crop of Grade 2 winner Fed Biz, Family Biz is out of stakes-placed sprinter I’mclassyandsassy. Trainer Edward Barker is looking for his first career graded stakes win in the Gotham.

Coady Photography

2. Knicks Go  

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer: Ben Colebrook

Owner: KRA Stud Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $678,515

Earnings per start: $96,931

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Pedigree: Paynter – Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Knicks Go posted a dominant 5 ½-length runaway victory at 70-1 odds in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and followed that with a game runner-up finish behind champion Game Winner in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But it has been downhill since then for Knicks Go, who was beaten by 18 ¾ lengths when 11th in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and then ran fifth by 13 lengths in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes in his first race in 2019. Unlike his last two starts when he failed as the favorite, the price should be right on Knicks Go in the Gotham if you like him. He prefers to be on or near the lead and will face plenty of early competition in a race that appears to be loaded with pace. Multiple stakes-winning sprinter Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker, is the dam (mother) of Knicks Go. Jockey Jose Lezcano won the Gotham in 2008 aboard Visionaire.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

3. Mind Control

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Greg Sacco

Owners: Red Oak Stable (Brunetti) and Madaket Stables

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $323,400

Earnings per start: $64,680

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Pedigree: Stay Thirsty – Feel That Fire, by Lightnin N Thunder

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mind Control won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in his third start as a 2-year-old before a troubled trip helped lead to a seventh-place finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The Stay Thirsty colt bounced back nicely in his 3-year-old debut when leading from start to finish in a 1 ½-length victory in the Jerome Stakes at this track and distance on Jan. 1. Mind Control earned a career-top 102 Equibase Speed Figure for the Jerome victory. If you’re willing to overlook the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he was in tight early and taken out of his comfort zone while racing near the back of the field, Mind Control profiles as a win contender for the Gotham. His dam (mother) is stakes-winning sprinter Feel That Fire, by Lightning N Thunder, so like quite a few of the top contenders this one-turn mile might be his ideal distance. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez won this race in 1997 on Smokin Mel.

Coady Photography

4. Much Better   

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Three Chimneys Farm

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $102,200

Earnings per start: $20,440

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Dust and Diamonds, by Vindication

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like Instagrand, Much Better ships in from Southern California for a Hall of Fame trainer – in this case Bob Baffert, who trained the last two Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah (2016) and Justify (2018). Much Better was stakes-placed on grass as a 2-year-old before running third in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in his 3-year-old bow in January at Santa Anita Park. The two horses he finished behind, winner Gunmetal Gray and runner-up Sueno, both came back to run second in graded stakes on the Kentucky Derby trail. Much Better followed the Sham with a front-running victory in a 6 ½-furlong allowance race on Feb. 9 at Santa Anita in which he earned a career-best 99 Equibase Speed Figure. Much Better should fit well in this group. If Instagrand needs the race or lacks some of the brilliance he showed when racing at age two, Much Better figures to be a prime win contender. He is by Pioneerof the Nile, sire of the aforementioned American Pharoah, out of multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Dust and Diamonds, by Vindication. Mike Smith won the Gotham in 1990 with Thirty Six Red and in 1995 on Talkin Man.

Joe Labozzetta/NYRA photo

5. Haikal

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Owner: Shadwell Stable

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $133,900

Earnings per start: $44,633

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Daaher – Sablah, by Distorted Humor

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A Shadwell Stable homebred half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Grade 1-winning sprinter Takaful, Haikal closed from off the pace to win the seven-eighths of a mile Jimmy Winkfield Stakes by a neck in his stakes debut on Feb. 9. He has not run a bad race in three starts with two wins after finishing second by a neck to Gotham foe Family Biz in his career debut. Haikal is stretching out to a mile for the first time and faces a significant class test in his graded stakes debut, but he could be the beneficiary of an ideal setup if multiple entrants engage in a battle to dictate the pace. A swift tempo in the Gotham would set up Haikal’s closing kick. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has won the Gotham twice, most recently with Enticed a year ago, and Shadwell won this race in 2016 with Shagaf.

Eclipse Sportswire

6. Instagrand

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Owner: OXO Equine

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $144,000

Earnings per start: $72,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Assets of War, by Lawyer Ron

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Instagrand looked like a monster in his first two career starts, winning a maiden race by 10 lengths and following with a 10 ½-length runaway victory in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes in August. Owner Larry Best of OXO Equine then made the decision to give Instagrand a break from training at Taylor Made Farm despite the fact that the horse was healthy and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer preferred to keep him in training. “Jerry feels our horse is ready to go. There’s nothing wrong with the horse,” Best told BloodHorse at the time. “It’s safe to say Jerry and I don’t agree with this.” The Gotham is Instagrand’s long-awaited return after a consistent stretch of 10 workouts since Dec. 30. If Instagrand dominates again, Best’s decision would leave a very fresh 3-year-old for the Derby trail. Should Instagrand lack the dazzle he showed at two, Best’s already second-guessed decision will be publicly re-litigated across all forms of social and print media. Regardless, Best paid $1.2 million for Instagrand at auction and made a decision to do what he felt was best for the horse. Expect Instagrand to be the overwhelming favorite and a one-turn mile should be an ideal spot for his return. Jockey Javier Castellano won the Gotham in 2004 on Saratoga County.

Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo

7. Not That Brady

Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez

Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez

Owners: Michael Imperio, Rudy Rodriguez, R. A. Hill Stable, and Lianna Stables Inc.

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $155,900

Earnings per start: $25,983

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Big Brown – Lisa’s Booby Trap, By Drewman

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Not That Brady enters off a determined runner-up finish by a head to Tax in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes on Feb. 2 in his graded stakes debut, which earned a career-best 103 Equibase Speed Figure. That followed a front-running three-length score in the Damon Runyon Stakes for New York-breds on Dec. 31. Not That Brady – by 2008 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown out of stakes-winning sprinter Lisa’s Booby Trap – changed tactics after unplaced finishes in his first two starts and has set an uncontested pace in each of his last four races with significantly improved results. With multiple speed horses among the Gotham entries, it looks very unlikely Not That Brady will be permitted to coast along alone in front in this race. He should be a pace factor and showed a ton of heart in the Withers, but Not That Brady will need to take a step forward to win the Gotham against improved competition. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez won the Gotham in 2013 with Vyjack.

8. Tikhvin Flew

Jockey: Dylan Davis

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: Bloom Racing Stable and Madaket Stables

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $55,400

Earnings per start: $27,700

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Pedigree: Street Sense – Chatique, by Deputy Minister

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After an eye-catching career debut on Jan. 4 at Aqueduct, where he pulled away late to win by 1 ¾ lengths, Tikhvin Flew ran third in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes on Feb. 9. He finished two lengths behind winner Haikal, a fellow entrant in the Gotham, after he was turned away by pacesetting runner-up Joevia. Tikhvin Flew has flashed talent in his first two races (93 and 95 Equibase Speed Figures, respectively), but this is a significantly tougher group than he faced in the Jimmy WInkfield. By 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Latique, a winner at one mile and twice stakes-placed at 1 1/16 miles, Tikhvin Flew is eligible to improve with added distance and he would need to do so to finish in the top three in the Gotham.

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