With the exception of Eclipse Award winner Hansen, a large but rather unaccomplished field of 13 has lined up for the $400,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 3 at Aqueduct. Will last year’s champion 2-year-old male rebound from his first career defeat, or will it be an unheralded sophomore that jumps into the Triple Crown mix?
There are two other graded stakes on Aqueduct’s Saturday program, but most will be focused on the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which will provide plenty of graded earnings for one talented 3-year-old with hopes of making it to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in two months. Post time is scheduled for 5:02 p.m. EST.
Hansen, winner of the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in November, does not have to worry about graded earnings, but he will need to show his connections an improved effort from his last race. The son of Tapit set the pace but was easily run down by Algorithms in the stretch of the Jan. 20 Holy Bull (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, finishing second by five lengths for his first defeat in four lifetime starts.
Though he has continued to work at Gulfstream since the Holy Bull, Hansen’s connections decided it was best to ship him out of South Florida for his next race. The gray/roan colt arrived in New York Feb. 29 and will now try to prove that he can harness his electrifying speed—at least better than he did in the Holy Bull. Trainer Mike Maker will remove blinkers on Hansen for the Gotham and rely on Aqueduct’s leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, in hopes of carving out a winning trip. The speedy colt drew post 12, so if there was ever a time to rate off a potential pacesetter, this would be it. However, there is not a lot of speed in this edition of the Gotham, so don't bet on it.
Hansen’s last work was on Feb. 26 at Gulfstream when he went five furlongs in 1:00 4/5. Maker said he was more relaxed in his latest move.
“I feel like he was extra sharp in the Holy Bull,” said Dominguez. “In talking after the race with Mike Maker, he said he wasn’t really surprised how fresh the horse was. He said all along, although he would have liked to win that race, it wasn’t the ultimate goal. I’m pretty optimistic that with that race under him, he will be a little more settled.”
Hansen, the 123-pound high weight and 6-5 morning-line favorite, races for Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing. He has earned $1,233,305 from his four starts.
Others arriving from South Florida for a shot at the Gotham are Dan and Sheila, Maan, and Stealcase. Dan and Sheila is one of two entrants for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the event twice in the last five years including last year with Stay Thirsty. Dan and Sheila, owned by Zayat Stables, finished a solid fourth in the Jan. 21 Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds in only his second start. The More Than Ready colt broke his maiden in December at Gulfstream. John Velazquez will have the mount.
“Dan and Sheila we thought ran a solid race in the Lecomte,” Pletcher said. “If he can improve on that he’ll put himself in the mix. This race is critical for them to step up if they want to continue on the Triple Crown trail.”
Pletcher’s other entrant is Dogwood Stable’s Raconteur, who is based at Belmont. The A.P. Indy colt has won his last two races at Aqueduct after losing the first five starts of his career. Both of the wins came this year, including an optional claimer on Feb. 3. Raconteur broke his maiden at 1 1/8 miles and is out of the Storm Cat mare Miss Kate, so distance is not the question he needs to answer; it's class. Dogwood paid $240,000 for the chestnut colt as a 2-year-old. Cornelio Velasquez will ride.
“Raconteur has seemed to like the inner track and has two wins but not against the kind of competition he is going to face Saturday," Pletcher said. "Hopefully, like a lot of the A. P. Indys, he’s getting a little bit better as he gets older."
Maan, from the barn of Eddie Kenneally, is 2-for-2 in his young career—both in sprints. The Malibu Moon colt was off for eight months after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs last summer, but had no problem in his return when winning a Feb. 9 optional claimer at Gulfstream.
Stealcase is a last out maiden winner from the barn of Mark Casse. The son of Lawyer Ron seemed to like the extra distance Jan. 19, as he was stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream after sprinting in his two starts as a juvenile.
Though he doesn’t have the speed of Hansen, George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis could challenge the favorite for the early lead, especially after drawing post 1. The Pleasantly Perfect colt was near the front in both his maiden win at Monmouth Park and his Jean Lafitte Stakes victory at Delta Downs. He was third in the Holy Bull after a bad start, a half-length behind Hansen.
“He was only beaten a half-length to the juvenile champion in his last race,” said trainer Kelly Breen.“We’re hoping for another good effort from him.”
Withers (gr. III) winner Alpha has not returned for the Gotham, but the third-place finisher, Tiger Walk, will. A two-time winner at Laurel Park as a juvenile, Tiger Walk was beaten five lengths in the Withers, which was his stakes debut. The Tale of the Cat colt will ship up from Laurel for trainer Ignacio Correas.
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Another Laurel-based colt, Done Talking, will also give it a go. Done Talking, from the barn of Hamilton Smith, finished fourth in the Remsen (gr. II) at Aqueduct last November to complete his 2011 campaign. The Broken Vow colt likes to come from off the pace, as he did in a maiden win at Delaware Park and an allowance victory at Parx Racing.
Riding a two-race win streak into the Gotham is Rick Dutrow Jr. trainee King and Crusader. The Maryland-bred son of Lion Heart has already won twice at Aqueduct this meet, including the Jan. 16 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at six furlongs. King and Crusader had a bullet five-furlong work at Aqueduct on Feb. 26.
The field also includes restricted New York-bred stakes winner Pretension; Side Road, who replaces the injured Consortium for Darley; and two from the barn of Dale Romans, Finnegans Wake and Suns Out Guns Out. Finnegans Wake has raced on the Gulfstream turf in his last two starts and Suns Out Guns Out is still a maiden after four starts.
“We’re experimenting a bit with Finnegans Wake to see if he likes the dirt; if he does, he’ll run a big race,” said Romans. “Suns Out Guns Out has really turned it around in his training since the first of the year. He’s always done a lot of things right, and we’re going to give him a chance with the big guys and see if he can get some graded stakes earnings.”
$400,000 Gotham (gr. III, Race 10, 5:02 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. My Adonis (KY), E Trujillo, 120, K J Breen, 5-1
2. Stealcase (KY), L Contreras, 116, M E Casse, 12-1
3. Finnegans Wake (KY), K J Desormeaux, 116, D L Romans, 20-1
4. Pretension (NY), J Santiago, 116, C W Grove, 20-1
5. Maan (KY), R Maragh, 116, E Kenneally, 15-1
6. Dan and Sheila (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher, 8-1
7. Suns Out Guns Out (KY), I Ortiz Jr., 116, D L Romans, 30-1
8. Raconteur (KY), C H Velasquez, 120, T A Pletcher, 15-1
9. King and Crusader (MD), M J Luzzi, 116, R E Dutrow Jr., 15-1
10. Side Road (KY), A Garcia, 116, K P McLaughlin, 12-1
11. Done Talking (KY), D Cohen, 116, H A Smith, 20-1
12. Hansen (KY), R A Dominguez, 123, M J Maker, 6-5
13. Tiger Walk (KY), E Castro, 116, I Correas IV, 12-1