by Karen M. Johnson
Visionaire, third to Pyro in the Risen Star Stakes (gr.III) at the Fair Grounds Feb. 9, will run next in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct March 8, majority owner Barry Irwin said Feb. 28.
“He is going to breeze (March 1) at Palm Meadows and if everything is hunky-dory, he will leave for New York (March 5),” Irwin said.
Irwin, who owns the son of Grand Slamwith Vision Racing LLC, said he decided against running in the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) to avoid “monsters,” notably Pyro, who turned in an ultra-impressive performance to win the Risen Star.
“We are running in the Gotham because it looks less formidable on paper,” Irwin said. “The Gotham has a lot of potential that hasn’t been seen yet, and we are one of those horses.”
Visionaire, who is trained by Michael Matz, was beaten 2 ¾ lengths by Pyro in the Risen Star, and Irwin believes if the race developed differently, his colt might have been second.
“It was a weird race; there was no pace, and he was on the inside and nobody wanted to be on the rail,” Irwin said. “If things had been a little different, we could have been second, but nobody was going to beat (Pyro).”
Jose Lezcano, aboard Visionaire in the Risen Star, will have the mount in the Gotham, Irwin said.
Visionaire is a winner of two of four starts. Irwin’s Team Valor bought a majority interest in the colt from Vision Racing after he won a first-level allowance race by 5 ½ lengths at Gulfstream Park Jan. 4.
After finishing second in his Oct. 7 career debut at Delaware Park to next-out winner Red Reef, Visionaire won his next two starts by a combined margin of 8 ¼ lengths.
In his Nov. 23 maiden win at Laurel Park, Visionaire defeated runner-up Elysium Fields by 2 ¾ lengths. Elysium Fields finished second to Cool Coal Man by a half-length in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr.II) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 24.
The $250,000 Gotham, a steppingstone to the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr.I) at Aqueduct April 5, will be run on the inner track at 1 1/16 miles. As of Feb. 28, the other horses pointing to the Gotham, according to New York Racing Association stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are the undefeated Giant Moon, Eaton’s Gift, Holidaze, Ling Ling Qi, Roman Emperor, Saratoga Russell, Southern Terminus, and Texas Wildcatter.