If trainer Todd Pletcher doesn't manage to win a spring 3-year-old Classic this year, it won't be for lack of trying. On the day he saddled Circular Quay for a convincing victory in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), he was also taking the $200,000 Gotham (gr. III) with Cowtown Cat at Aqueduct Saturday.
In addition, Pletcher's deep 3-year-old bench boasts Sham (gr. II) winner Ravel, Fountain of Youth (gr. II) victor Scat Daddy, and Any Given Saturday, all major contenders for the 2007 Triple Crown.
Gulf Coast Farms, who bred him, and co-owner WinStar Farm’s Cowtown Cat surged in the lane for Ramon Dominguez to win the Gotham at 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track by 2 1/2 lengths over Wafi City.
“There were definitely some tense moments,” said Seth Benzel, Pletcher’s New York assistant. “Ramon looked like he was confident in the horse he had underneath him. It was a great ride. He put him in a great spot and made his move.”
Pletcher was at the Fair Grounds, where he saddled Circular Quay in the Louisiana Derby.
One week ago at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher saddled five winners, including Scat Daddy in the Fountain of Youth. Scat Daddy will likely stay at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 31, and now it looks like Cowtown Cat will land in the 83rd running of Aqueduct’s $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at nine furlongs on April 7, three days after racing returns to the Big A’s main track.
In winning the Gotham, Cowtown Cat redeemed himself from a sixth-place finish in the Aqueduct's Nashua (gr. III) last fall when he stumbled and lost all chance. This time, the Distorted Humor colt benefited from a ground-saving trip under Dominguez, who chose to settle behind a slow pace of :24.54 and :49 57 set by Wollaston Bay, who was tracked by Wafi City.
On the turn, Wafi City launched his bid for the lead and after six furlongs in 1:13.40, seemed to have a huge advantage. As Wafi City went forward, Wollaston Bay backed up and 11-10 favorite Summer Doldrums put in his run. An opening was created that Dominguez had waited for, and he sent his mount through for the victory in 1:44.75 on the fast track.
“He was very willing to go through that hole,” Dominguez said. “I had to go between (Summer Doldrums) and (Wollaston Bay). He was very brave. Up to that point, he was so relaxed, I had no idea whether he was going to stop or go on. I put him on the bit, and he split horses beautifully. He finished real nicely. I was very pleased with him. Judging by today, it seems like he’ll go farther. I had to get the outrider to get him pulled up. That’s always a good sign.”
Cowtown Cat has won three of his six starts and nearly tripled his lifetime earnings to $188,463 with the $120,000 winner's share Saturday.
Although Summer Doldrums ran third, he came back to make up ground and was only beaten a head for the place.
“It wasn’t a great trip,” said trainer Rick Violette Jr. “There wasn’t as much speed as we thought there would be. I’m a little disappointed. I was afraid that this could happen off his big race last time. Hopefully, that means we’re supposed to move forward when we get to the Wood. We knew going in that it wasn’t going to be his A-race, but I still thought he was going to get it done.”
Wafi City remains an interesting player. Last year, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won the Gotham with Like Now, and ran second in the Wood Memorial to Bob and John with 15-1 Jazil. Jazil would later win the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
“He ran very well,” McLaughlin said of Wafi City. “We’re very happy with the race. Alan (Garcia) rode a great race from the nine-hole to get him inside and save ground. He got a touch tired and maybe the race was a touch too long. I’m not sure what we’re going to do now, I’ll talk to over with the Darley people.”
It was four lengths back to Sir Whimsey in fourth, who was followed by Mint Slewlep, Longley, Wollaston Bay, How Sweet He Is, and Believeinmenow.
Sent off as the second choice, Cowtown Cat paid $6.70, $4.90, and $3.40. Wafi City held second and returned $11.40 and $5. Summer Doldrums, the even-money favorite, was third and paid $2.40.
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