Four weeks after a memorable stretch drive in which Samraat just held off Uncle Sigh in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack, those two New York-bred rivals will hook up again at the Jamaica, N.Y. track in the $500,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. II) March 1.
In a Triple Crown prep season that already has supplied several memorable stretch duels, Samraat and Uncle Sigh shadowed each other at every call before My Meadowview Farm homebred Samraat edged past in deep stretch to register a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race. The Gotham will be contested at the same 1 1/16-mile distance, but after a six-horse Withers field, 11 entered 3-year-olds hope to come in like a lion on Saturday.
Trained by Richard Violette Jr., Samraat enters the Gotham with an unblemished record in four career starts, including three straight wins at Aqueduct, with two of those scores coming in two-turn stakes races on the inner track. Samraat, by Noble Causeway —Little Indian Girl, by Indian Charlie, overwhelmed five other New York-breds in the Damon Runyon Stakes before his hard-fought Withers win.
Violette would like to start Samraat in the Gotham and then the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) April 5 at Aqueduct.
"In the Gotham, we'll be racing out of our own stall on a racetrack he's familiar with," Violette said. "It's an upgrade as far as competition goes. He has to step up but if you watched the prep races over the weekend, there were a few horses who stepped up and a lot who didn't."
Also a New York-bred, Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robertson's Uncle Sigh entered the Withers off a 14 1/2-length romp in a state-bred maiden race.
"I'm super pleased with the way he's coming into the race," said Uncle Sigh's trainer Gary Contessa. "I was hoping for a good post position because it can play a big part in the landscape of this race. He's trained good, had a good work this morning (Feb. 24), and we'll see what happens."
The Indian Charlie colt drew post three for the Gotham and could face an early challenge from last year's Futurity Stakes (gr. II) winner In Trouble, who has shown early speed in winning his two career starts and will stretch out to two turns for the first time in his 3-year-old season debut.
Trainer Michael Trombetta has entered two-time stakes winner Extrasexyhippzster, who returns to the site of his five-length romp in the Don Rickles Stakes Dec. 21. After winning that six-furlong race, Edward Hipps and Michael Kirwan's Stroll colt successfully stretched out to one mile at Laurel Park, winning the Miracle Wood Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths.
Trainer Todd Pletcher saw his two entries draw the outside posts in the 11-horse field. Let's Go Stable's Harpoon will start from the outside after his runner-up finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 1 at Tampa Bay Downs. The Tapit colt lost that 1 1/16-mile race by a nose to stablemate Vinceremos.
Pletcher's other starter, Master Lightning, drew post 10 off his fourth-place finish in the Miracle Wood.
Violette also has entered Financial Mogul, who closed out 2013 by finishing second in the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) to eventual Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Cairo Prince. In his 2014 debut, Financial Mogul, a son of Street Boss , finished sixth in the Holy Bull.
$500,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. II, race 9, approximate post time 4:17 p.m. EST) 3YO, 1 1/16 miles, inner dirt
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. In Trouble (KY), J. Rocco Jr., 120, A. Dutrow
2. Financial Mogul (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 116, R. Violette Jr.
3. Uncle Sigh (NY), C. Nakatani, 116, G. Contessa
4. Noble Cornerstone (NY), K. Desormeaux, 116, W. Ward
5. Monopolize (KY), C. DeCarlo, 116, T. Pletcher
6. Deceived (NY), R. Maragh, 116, L. Gyarmati
7. Classic Giacnroll (KY), M. Franco, 116, L. Guerrero
8. Samraat (NY), J. Ortiz, 123, R. Violette Jr.
9. Extrasexyhippzster (PA), J. Pimentel, 123, M. Trombetta
10. Master Lightning (PA), C. Velasquez, 116, T. Pletcher
11. Harpoon (KY), I. Ortiz Jr., 116, T. Pletcher