The Gotham Stakes is the third of four Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve preps in New York, but it marks a step backwards in terms of progression as it will be contested at a one-turn mile after last month’s two-turn Withers Stakes. There might be some question marks about some of the entrants’ chances in longer races, but the Gotham promises to be an interesting test that should sharpen the speed of some Kentucky Derby hopefuls or knock others off the trail.
Racetrack: Aqueduct near New York, N.Y.
Date: March 9
Distance: 1 mile
Post Time: 5:09 p.m. ET
Notable winners: Travers winner Stay Thirsty (2011), Preakness winner Red Bullet (2000), Hall of Famer Lure (1992), Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer (1989), Triple Crown winner Secretariat (1973).
First held: 1953
Kentucky Derby points: 50-20-10-5 to top four finishers, respectively
1. Family Biz (20-1): Rallied for third in the Jerome at a mile and most recently was fourth in the Jimmy Winkfield at seven furlongs. Capable of grabbing a minor share once again but would need a ridiculously fast pace duel to wind up any closer than that.
JOCKEY: Kendrick Carmouche; TRAINER: Ed Barker
2. Knicks Go (12-1): This son of Paynter seems to have gone the way of the New York Knicks, losing by 13 lengths in the Sam F. Davis, his 3-year-old debut. Was beaten 18 ¾ lengths prior to that in the Kentucky Jockey Club, which came on the heels of a second in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. Perhaps the one-turn mile will bring out the best in him, which will be needed to be competitive in this field. Rival connections with an eye on the Wood Memorial are no doubt hoping he runs well enough to move on to the Wood. As a Grade 1 winner, his presence would boost the Wood’s purse to $1 million.
JOCKEY: Jose Lezcano; TRAINER: Ben Colebrook
3. Mind Control (9-2): He skipped the Withers after winning the Jerome to focus on this test at the same one-turn mile distance as the Jerome. Two turns might be tough on him, but in this spot, he’s a major threat who will be quite attractive if his morning-line odds turn out to be correct. He’s also a Grade 1 winner (of the Hopeful Stakes) who will boost the Wood purse.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Greg Sacco
4. Much Better (5-1): Trainer Bob Baffert certainly made a wise move in sending him east. He weakened and finished third in the Sham at Santa Anita but a solid win in an allowance race after that should have him on his toes and ready for a top effort. Anytime Baffert ships a horse to New York and sends Mike Smith to ride him, he’s a must-use in your exotics.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
5. Haikal (10-1): Won the Winkfield in his third start to earn a spot in this field, but he’s stepping way up in class and seems unlikely to crack the trifecta.
JOCKEY: Rajiv Maragh; TRAINER: Kiaran McLaughlin
6. Instagrand (4-5): Another West Coast shipper, he has a better resume than Much Better, having won his two starts at two by a combined 20 ¼ lengths. Yet he hasn’t raced since August, so he’s starting the year late and there could be some distance limitations. He’s a major force in the race, but there’s no wagering value at an odds-on price.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano TRAINER: Jerry Hollendorfer
7. Not That Brady (12-1): Unlike Tom Brady, he settled for second on Super Bowl eve in the Withers. He probably deserved to win as he raced wide into the first turn, seemed cooked at the top of the stretch, then battled back to miss by a head. Love the determination he showed in that race, but would have to think it was a draining effort that could haunt him in a tough field like this one.
JOCKEY: Reylu Gutierrez; TRAINER: Rudy Rodriguez
8. Tikhvin Flew (20-1): Was third in the Winkfield in his second career start and may have a bright future ahead of him, but this seems to be asking a bit much of an inexperienced colt.
JOCKEY: Dylan Davis; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
THE PICK: Much Better
LIVE LONGSHOT: Not That Brady