Gotta Go, left, wins the Street Sense Stakes over Lone Sailor

Gotta Go, left, wins the Street Sense Stakes over Lone Sailor

Coady Photography

Gotta Go Aims to Give Wilkes Deja Vu in KY Jockey Club

One year after winning the race with McCraken, trainer has another top prospect.

This time in the season, when various wish lists are compiled and offerings are all the rage, Ian Wilkes has something that could inspire a serious case of envy among his fellow trainers.

Within Wilkes' barn on the Churchill Downs backside resides a juvenile who has handled stakes company beneath the Twin Spires, an effort that showed he can get by on ability, while the mental side of his game works itself out. It's a foundation that guarantees little, as the waters the colt is asked to dive into get deeper, but heading into one of the early litmus tests for would-be classic contenders, it does inspire some lively forecasting about the rewards Lothenbach Stables' Gotta Go could gift his connections with in the future.

"It's always fun. It's what dreams are made of—that's what this time of year is," Wilkes said of the son of Shanghai Bobby, who aims to keep the lofty hopes going when he faces 13 other 2-year-olds in the Nov. 25 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. 

Little gets a horseman's blood pumping like having a juvenile tout himself over the surface which hosts the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). In his two victories from three starts, Gotta Go has done just that for Wilkes. He broke his maiden at Churchill by 4 3/4 lengths Sept. 17 before returning to take the one-mile Street Sense Stakes by a head over grade 1-placed Lone Sailor.

If Gotta Go's back story heading into Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test sounds familiar, it's because it is the same one Wilkes enjoyed with eventual multiple graded stakes winner McCraken  heading into his victory in last year's edition of the Kentucky Jockey Club. As is typical for his reserved self, Wilkes is quick to beat back any early comparisons between his current leading juvenile and the horse that became his first Kentucky Derby starter.

What Wilkes will concede is that Gotta Go—like McCraken—is taking himself into these tougher spots rather than being pressed there.

"He's is a different type than McCraken. I can't compare them. But he is showing signs that he's a good horse," Wilkes said of Gotta Go. "He's doing very positive things. He's learning. He's finally catching on. 

"He had the talent early on, but he made too many mistakes (when he finished fifth in his debut at Ellis Park in July). He made too many errors in that race—he didn't like the dirt, he ran away from the dirt. Then he got used to that. Even when he won his maiden, he was very green. But he's getting more and more professional about it."

Gotta Go's narrow victory in the Street Sense signaled to Wilkes he was one who could learn his lessons quickly. After tracking eighth in the 10-horse field, Gotta Go put in a wide bid around the far turn and wore down Bravazo, who had taken command, before turning back a challenge from Lone Sailor to his inside.

"He really dug in and showed me how badly he wanted to win," said jockey Chris Landeros, who was aboard Gotta Go in each of his victories. "There were a lot of experienced horses in that race and he was only making his third start after breaking his maiden. He has some maturing to do still, but to be able to run like that on talent alone, without completely being mentally ready—that is what impressed me."

Bravazo and Lone Sailor, the second and third-place finishers in the Oct. 7 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1), are also returning in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The Tom Amoss-trained Lone Sailor was a particularly eye-catching maiden winner when he prevailed by 11 lengths at Saratoga Race Course going seven furlongs Sept. 3.

Saratoga was also where Godolphin's blue-blooded homebred Enticed  made his debut. He won going six furlongs Sept. 4 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The son of Medaglia d'Oro , out of multiple grade 1 winner It's Tricky, stepped into top-level company from there and finished third in the Oct. 7 Champagne Stakes (G1), where he was beaten three lengths by eventual Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Good Magic .

Dallas Stewart trainee Givemeaminit  finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile—his third straight try against grade 1 company—and is seeking his first victory in what will be his fifth start Saturday.

Entries: Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, November 25, 2017, Race 11

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 2 yo
  • 5:56 PM (local)
11Gotta Go (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateChris Landeros122Ian R. Wilkes6/1
22Diamond King (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFrankie Pennington122Robert E. Reid, Jr.20/1
33John Tippmann (KY)Rayan Gazader122Kenneth G. McPeek20/1
44Arrival (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJulien R. Leparoux122Mark E. Casse12/1
55Givemeaminit (LA)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.122Dallas Stewart6/1
66Enticed (KY)Junior Alvarado122Kiaran P. McLaughlin4/1
77Promises Fulfilled (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateAlex L. Canchari122Dale L. Romans8/1
88High North (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie122Brad H. Cox30/1
99Reride (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.122Steven M. Asmussen20/1
1010Bravazo (KY)Jon Kenton Court122D. Wayne Lukas8/1
1111Quip (KY)Florent Geroux122Rodolphe Brisset8/1
1212Tiz Mischief (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado122Dale L. Romans8/1
1313Lone Sailor (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateChanning Hill122Thomas M. Amoss12/1
1414Peppered (KY)Joseph Rocco, Jr.122Reade Baker12/1