The $200,000 Gotham (gr. III), switched this year to a two-turn race on Aqueduct's inner track at 1 1/16 miles, has drawn a strong field of 11 Saturday, including top-notch 3-year-olds Achilles of Troy and Keyed Entry.The Gotham has previously been run at one mile around one turn on the main track, but with the race moved up on the schedule this year, the distance was changed. The main track opens March 29.Paraneck Stable's Achilles of Troy has been carving out a name for himself this winter over the inner track. The Notebook colt has won three straight over this surface, including impressive stakes victories in the Count Fleet and Whirlaway. The Gotham will be Achilles of Troy's most important start to date. Although his stakes wins have been impressive, they have not come against the caliber of horses he will face Saturday.
"It's a good test for him, and I expect him to run huge," owner Ernie Paragallo said. "Nobody scares me if he runs his race. If he runs his `A' race, he's as good as anybody in the country."Achilles of Troy makes his first start for trainer Frank Amonte Jr., who replaced former trainer Jen Pedersen with Paraneck Stable. Ramon Dominguez, currently second to Eibar Coa in Aqueduct's jockey standings, has the mount on Achilles of Troy.Trainer Todd Pletcher had several options in mind for Hutcheson (gr. II) winner Keyed Entry, but ended up choosing the Gotham, a spot he never would have been in if the race were still one turn."Another reason we chose the Gotham is that it fits nicely into his schedule," said Pletcher, who is giving the colt six weeks between starts. "After a tough race in the Hutcheson, we wanted to give him plenty of time."Pletcher would have preferred to see less early speed for the Starlight Stable's speedy son of Honour and Glory's debut around two turns."There's definitely some speed in there, and it's going to be interesting to see how fast the other horses go," said Pletcher, who will be with jockey John Velazquez at Tampa Bay Downs for Bluegrass Cat's run in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). "Keyed Entry is an exceptionally fast horse, and the biggest key for him going on will be how kindly he rates."The job of rating Keyed Entry will fall on jockey Edgar Prado after Velazqez was aboard the colt for his two starts in Florida this year.Also getting a new jockey for the Gotham is Joseph Balsamo's Sweetnorthernsaint, who will have the services of Kent Desormeaux. The California-based jock is scheduled to shift his tack to New York for most of the year later this month. When Desormeaux was an up-and-coming jock on the Maryland circuit, he enjoyed success with Mike Trombetta, trainer of Sweetnorthernsaint.The 3-year-old gelding could have been claimed for $40,000 Dec. 21. Sweetnorthernsaint scored a big 10-length runaway win in the Mircale Wood at Laurel early last month and has shown good early speed in all his recent starts."I'm fairly confident that he'll be fine," Trombetta said of the early speed in the Gotham. "In his last race, he ran a slow three-quarters. He's unique in that he's shown me he can use his speed when you need it. I don't think it's necessary for him to have the lead in order to win."In addition to Keyed Entry and Sweetnorthernsaint, there are three other horses who could be seen up front early on. Fred Capossela winner Like Now and longshot Eagle Head are both stretching out from six-furlong races, and One Way Flight has been quick throughout his career, although he will have to break from the outside post in the Gotham.$200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Hesanoldsalt (KY), 116, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
2. Church Service (KY), 116, Michael Luzzi
3. Eagle Head (CA), 116, Santos Noe Chavez
4. Like Now (FL), 116, Fernando Jara
5. Putonyerdancinshuz (PA), 116, Hiram Rivera
6. Achilles of Troy (KY), 120, Ramon Dominguez
7. Keyed Entry (KY), 120, Edgar Prado
8. Sunshine Alpine (MD), 116, Richard Migliore
9. Greeley's Legacy (KY), 116, Eibar Coa
10. Sweetnorthernsaint (FL), 116, Kent Desormeaux
11. One Way Flight (NY), 116, Channing Hill