Imperial Council to Run Next in Gotham

March means horses shuttling all over looking for graded earnings and moving forward on the Kentucky Derby trail. One of the more interesting 3-year-olds is Imperial Council, who will head up to New York for the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 7, which promises to be a bang-up race.


Another potential Derby contender, Take the Points, winner of a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Jan. 31, was originally heading to the Gotham, but will now go west for next Saturday’s Sham Stakes (gr. III). Replacing him in the Gotham will be stablemate Naos, another Starlight Partners colt who is coming off a 3 1/4-length score in a PhillyPark allowance race Feb. 15. Trainer Todd Pletcher likely will also be represented in the Gotham by the Peachtree Stable-owned Masala, who finished a strong second to Take the Points at Gulfstream.


One horse who may be traveling east for the Gotham, run at 1 1/16 miles on the Aqueduct inner track, is I Want Revenge, one of the leading 3-year-olds in the California. The son of Stephen Got Even was beaten a nose by Pioneerof the Nile in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) and was recently third in the Robert Lewis (gr. II). Jockey Joe Talamo said the colt never got hold of the Pro-Ride surface, which trainer Jeff Mullins described as having a number of soft spots, so he will come east for his first test on dirt.


The shippers all will have to contend with the two brilliant locally based New York-breds Haynesfield and Mr. Fantasy, who demolished their opposition this winter.


Because the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) was shortened to one-mile this year, several trainers have been forced to look elsewhere, including Imperial Council’s trainer Shug McGaughey.


“I didn’t want to take him over to Tampa to run him over that deep track, and we don’t want to run him on an artificial track, because if he didn’t run well we wouldn’t have any idea where we stood,” McGaughey said. “The Gotham is a mile and a sixteenth, so that will give him two-turn experience. I’m going to breeze him on Tuesday, and if everything goes right, I’ll send him up to New York next week.


“What we’re trying to do is get to the Wood Memorial (gr. I), so it’s not one of those win-or-else-type of deals. We just want to see a decent race that will move him forward and set him up for the Wood. That’s all we’re looking for.”


McGaughey said he was “very pleased” with Imperial Council’s 3-year-old debut, which he won by two lengths, earning a 94 Beyer figure.


“Coming off a layoff and going 6 1/2 furlongs with an Empire Maker  out of a Thunder Gulch mare, you never know. He broke in the bridle and settled perfectly for Edgar behind a pretty fast pace. Edgar said when he asked him he got to those horses in three jumps. I thought he was getting a little tired at the end, but Edgar said he was just a little green and was trying to ease himself up. He’s always been an easy horse to train and he’s done really well over the winter.”


Jack Wolf, managing partner of Starlight, said Take the Points has a good deal of turf breeding (Fred Astaire and French Derby winner Caracolero), and it is hoped he will take to the synthetic surface. But if he doesn’t handle the Pro-Ride, then he will be forced to return east and finish first or second in one of the major final Derby preps in order to have enough earnings to make the Derby field.


“That could be a problem if he doesn’t run well, but with the way Dunkirk ran the other day, I don’t want to have come back and run against him in the Florida Derby (gr. I),” Wolf said. “What I’m hoping for is that Take the Points takes to that surface and we can just stay out there for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)


Among those pointing for the Sham are San Rafael (gr. III) winner The Pamplemousse, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Ryehill Dreamer.


The same day as the Gotham, Gulfstream will have a first level allowance race that likely will attract the highly promising Checklist, another Starlight-owned colt who suffered a minor injury in his last start, and the McGaughey-trained Gone Astray , who was fourth in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in his most recent start. McGaughey said the son of Dixie Union, who was impressive breaking his maiden at Saratoga, has done extremely well over the winter.


On Saturday's Gulfstream work tab, Notonthesamepage turned in a bullet five-furlong drill in :59 2/5 for Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes, as did This Ones For Phil, who went six fuirlongs in 1:11 1/5. Also working for the Fountain of Youth was Theregoesjojo, who breezed five panels in 1:01 2/5. Hello Broadway tuned up for the March 14 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), working a sharp half-mile in :47 2/5.