The Gotham Stakes is a key stepping stone. To where is the big question. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve? The Wood Memorial Stakes? The Pat Day Mile? At a one-turn mile, the Grade 3 Gotham is the kind of race that portends a horse’s future in sprints or two-turn races for connections who are not necessarily convinced that they have a Triple Crown candidate on their hands. In case they do, the field of eight in Saturday’s renewal will be vying for 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points distributed to the top four finishers.
1. Atlantic Road (30-1): He’s one of four starters in the field coming off a maiden win. The final time of 1:26.28 was bland but he comes from elite connections, having Todd Pletcher as his trainer, and that’s a point in his favor.
2. The Reds (30-1): Maiden winner No. 2. It took him five tries to break his maiden, making him the most experienced runner in the field. The distance will be no problem as he won at 1 1/8 miles but the final time was slow and leading jockey Kendrick Carmouche jumped off to ride someone else in the field.
3. Highly Motivated (8-5): He hasn’t raced since November, when he won the 6 ½-furlong Nyquist Stakes on the opening day of the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. His breeding and running style indicate he should handle the added distance and there’s much more to like with Chad Brown training him and Javier Castellano shipping north to ride him.
4. Wipe the Slate (6-1): Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped him across the country to run here after he finished sixth in the longer Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park. That stakes was contested on a wet track and maybe that was the reason for a weak effort after a fast maiden win. Carmouche opted to ride him, which is a plus.
5. Crowded Trade (9-2): His debut victory was the most promising by the four maiden winners entered in this race. He staged a nice rally to win at six furlongs in his first start. He was a late addition to the mix of possible starters so Brown must be pleased with his recent works. He’s definitely worth a long look despite his inexperience.
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6. Capo Kane (5-1): He was a highly impressive winner of the Jan. 1 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct at a one-mile distance – albeit on a muddy track. He showed some determination in the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes, leading until the final furlong when he tired and dropped back to third. There’s not a lot of early speed in this race, but he’s likely to butt heads with Freedom Fighter early on and the duel between two of the favorites could be costly for both of them.
7. Freedom Fighter (5-2): He’s trained by Bob Baffert, which is enough to make him a major threat. He was shipped from California to New York off two sharp efforts, including a good second in the San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs. The mile should be within his scope and he has class and speed to land in the winner’s circle, but the pace scenario is a concern.
8. Weyburn (20-1): It took him three tries to notch his initial win and it came on a sloppy track in mediocre time. There’s some potential here, but his early speed will probably work against him with Capo Kane and Freedom Fighter in the field.
THE PICK: Highly Motivated
LIVE LONGSHOT: Wipe the Slate