The 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail for three-year old thoroughbreds really starts to heat up in the month of March and to get things going in a big way is this Saturday’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
I have broken down all the contenders in an impressive field for this Saturday’s Gotham Stakes to come up with two sports picks to pair together for an exacta play in this race.
Gotham Stakes- Aqueduct Racetrack
This Saturday’s Gotham at Aqueduct is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds and it will be contested on dirt over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $400,000.
The field for the Gotham stands eight deep right now and it should be considered deep in talent as well with seven of the entries rated by Horse Racing Nation. The three-year old at the top of my list for this Saturday would be Sunny Ridge. Trained by Jason Servis and ridden by Manuel Franco, this New Jersey-bred gelding put himself firmly on the Kentucky Derby Trail with a victory in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 30.
With the exception of a bad run in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga in late July, Sunny Ridge placed first or second in four other races as a juvenile including a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont in early October.
My second choice for the Gotham would be Shagaf. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt is relatively untested with a victory in a Maiden Special Weight race at Aqueduct as a juvenile and an Allowance race win at Gulfstream in January as the only two races on his resume. Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., I am making this pick on pure potential, but I think the upside remains high given what I have seen in this horse so far.
You can trace this colt’s progeny all the way back to Seattle Slew with a direct pedigree to Bernardini so you know he comes from good stock. Despite the lack of stakes race experience, Shagaf comes into this graded event with the second-highest HRN rating in the field at 6.52.
Bonus Pick: Jimmy Winkfield Stakes - Aqueduct Racetrack
This year’s ungraded Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct will be one of the featured events on this Monday’s race card. It is open to three-year old thoroughbreds and it will be run on the dirt over a distance of six furlongs.
Right now there are six horses listed as probable for Monday’s race and I am going with Sudden Surprise as the best in the field. Trained by Todd Pletcher, this three-year old New York-bred colt should feel right at home on this track with three-straight finishes in the money at Aqueduct. The latest payday was a second-place run in the Gander Stakes on Feb. 6 in this season’s debut.
He ran six times as a juvenile and with the exception of a fourth-place finish in the Sleepy Hollow at Belmont in late October, he crossed the finish line first in the other five events. The biggest victory of his two-year old campaign was a win in the New York Stallion Great White Way at Aqueduct on Dec. 27.
A perfect pairing for an exacta bet in this race would be Jan’s Reserve. This will be trainer Michael Dilger’s entry in this race and the three-year old Kentucky-bred colt is coming off a second-place finish in the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Aqueduct over a distance of six furlongs on New Year’s Day.
Adding to his home track advantage, Jan’s Reserve closed-out his juvenile season with a victory in the King’s Swan Stakes at this track on Nov. 27. You can also add a victory at Belmont in a Maiden Special Weight race to his resume to extend his current streak of finishes in the money to three.