The $200,000 Gotham Stakes, to be run Sunday March 17, could draw a talented group of 3-year-olds from different parts of the country, including two big-name colts from last year who will be making their 3-year-old debut. Coming up from Florida will be Remsen winner Saarland, who was unable to get a 7-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream to fill on three occasions.
From Maryland comes the undefeated Tony Dutrow-trained colts Saratoga Blues and Smooth Jazz, both of whom have already won stakes at Aqueduct this year; Saratoga Blues winning the Whirlaway and Smooth Jazz taking the Best Turn.
One definite starter shipping in from Southern California is Mayakovsky, who will be making his first start since finishing second to Came Home in the Hopeful Stakes. Prior to that, the son of Capote broke Saratoga's 5 1/2-furlong track record in his career debut.
Other possible California invaders include Neil Drysdale's promising colt Sunday Break, winner of his last two starts at Santa Anita, and Bobby Frankel's recent acquisition Medaglia D'Oro, and impressive allowance winner at Oaklawn Park before being sold to Frankel's client Edmund Gann.
The others pointing for the one-mile race are the improving New York allowance winner My Man Ryan, Whirlaway runner-up Smoked Em, Philly Park shipper Parade of Music, and Best Turn runner-up Tank's Expectation.
Trainer Patrick Biancone said that Mayakovsky came out of Thursday's 6-furlong work in 1:10 4/5 in good shape. "He worked well and came out of it well," said Biancone, who
indicated Mayakovsky would ship to New York on March 15th. "He's filled out with the time off. He's bigger and stronger than he was last year. He's also more relaxed. That will help him in the longer races."
As for Mayakovsky tackling this field off a 6 1/2-month layoff, Biancone said, "It's taking a bit of a gamble, but it's a one-turn mile and I'm running out of time. I need to get a race into him. It's coming up a tough field, but he's been training good."
If West Point Stable's My Man Ryan doesn't run in the Gotham, he will run instead in the Lane's End Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 23.
"Earlier in his career, he was not a maiden special weight horse," said trainer Richard Violette. "I wanted to give him an opportunity to run where he belongs. That could get his confidence up instead of running him in a special weight and getting his butt kicked. I think it's paying dividends now. This horse has really improved since we put blinkers on him and stretched him out to two turns. For the Gotham, he would have to cut back to one turn, but the race is in his own backyard. The race at Turfway is around two turns, but that track can be very speed favoring, especially if it gets wet. We're going to see who runs in which race and that will probably be the deciding factor. I want to run him where he has the best opportunity to win."