Veteran rider Corey Nakatani, seen here in 2013, rides Gotham Stakes contender Uncle Sigh this Saturday at New York's Aqueduct racetrack. Credit: Getty
The Kentucky Derby may still be two months away, but an important prep race for the Run for the Roses takes place in New York this Saturday, Aqueduct’s historic Gotham Stakes.
Eleven horses are set to contest the $500,000 race, which will be run at 1 and 1/16-mile. It will be the ninth race on a 10-race card, with an approximate starting time of 4:17 p.m.
A total of 85 points will be awarded to the top four finishers, 50 to the winner, 20 to second place, 10 to third place and 5 to fourth place. These points are required in order to be eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, so this race will be very important toward shaping the Derby field.
An undefeated colt named Samraat is the leading contender. Samraat won the Withers Stakes back on Feb. 1, prevailing over Uncle Sigh after dueling with him throughout the race. The victory earned Samraat 10 Derby points. Jose Ortiz will ride Samraat, and he is coupled in the wagering with Noble Cornerstone, who was last seen finishing seventh in Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis Stakes. The entry was set as the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
The aforementioned Uncle Sigh will also run in the Gotham Stakes — he’s the second choice in the wagering at 3-1.
Veteran jockey Corey Nakatani will now ride Uncle Sigh, possibly suggesting a change in strategy, which may be necessary because there is a lot of early speed signed on, including the likes of In Trouble, who will be making his first start of the year.
In Trouble impressed last September when he took the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park in gate-to-wire fashion, but now he will be asked to carry his speed from six furlongs to 1 1/16-mile. In Trouble, at 6-1, will break from post one and will be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr.
Extrasexyhippzster will look to pad his resume and grab some Derby points in the Gotham; he won the Don Rickles Stakes at Aqueduct and the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park in his last two starts. Juan Pimentel is in the saddle on the 4-1 third choice.
Financial Mogul has been keeping good company, but has yet to score a stakes win. He finished sixth in his last race, the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park where Cairo Prince, a leading Kentucky Derby contender, romped. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Financial Mogul, set at 10-1 on the morning line.
The widest post position will be occupied by Harpoon, a Todd Pletcher trainee. Harpoon was narrowly beaten in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, losing by a nose to his stablemate Vinceremos. Aqueduct’s leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will have to make sure Harpoon doesn’t lose too much ground in the opening stages. He is 10-1 on the morning line.
Todd Pletcher also saddles Master Lightning and Monopolize in the Gotham, who are each 20-1. Master Lightning disappointed in the Miracle Wood Stakes in his last start, while Monopolize ran poorly in an allowance race last time out at Gulfstream.
The Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported on Twitter Wednesday that Monopolize is “likely to scratch…and point for a race in Florida.”
Rounding out the field are Deceived, a 15-1 shot who is coming off an allowance company win, and 20-1 shot Classic Giacnroll, who finished 14 lengths behind Samraat in the Withers Stakes last time out.