The unbeaten California invader INSTAGRAND headlines the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Park, with this stop on New York’s Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. This race will pay out qualifying points to the Top 4 finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
The contest is Race 10 on a card of 11, with a scheduled post time of 5:09 pm Eastern Time. Here is a look at the field of eight runners.
FAMILY BIZ [ML 20-1] Trainer: Edward Barker. Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche. This guy started his 3-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day. Since then he ran fourth in both an Aqueduct Allowance and then in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes. He faces a major class challenge in this group.
KNICKS GO [ML 12-1] Trainer: Ben Colebrook. Jockey: Jose Lezcano. Had an amazing juvenile season as the long-shot winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, which he backed it up with a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. He came up empty on the slop at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Then To start his 3-year-old campaign, KNICKS GO disappointed as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. training base. His best efforts seem to be when he runs on or just behind the early lead.
MIND CONTROL [ML 9-2] Trainer: Greg Sacco. Jockey: John Velazquez. This race has been the goal for Mind Control since his front-running victory in the Jerome Stakes on this track back in January, which earned him 10 KD qualifying points. The field for The Gotham has turned out to be far tougher than originally expected especially with the amount early speed, which may not suit his running style.
MUCH BETTER [ML 5-1] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Mike Smith. This Baffert trainee is looking for his niche in the 3-year-old division. He began his career as one of many heavily bet first-timers to win as a 2-year-old at Del Mar. He ran third run in the Sham Stakes (G3) behind Winner GUNMETAL GRAY, and runner-up SUENO. With Santa Anita closed, Mike Smith flies in to take the mount.
HAIKAL [ML 10-1] Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin. Jockey: Rajiv Maragh. A neck has been the margin of victory or defeat in all three of this guys races. That margin produced his Maiden victory followed by a Win in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes. All three of his starts were here at Aqueduct, where he closed very strong. This race is loaded with horses that want the lead, which should help his late run as he stretches out to a mile for the first time.
INSTAGRAND [ML 4-5] Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer. Jockey: Javier Castellano. He has Won two sprints by 10 lengths apiece. The first in a June Maiden win at Los Alamitos and then in the Best Pal Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.
This will be his first try at the mile distance, having gone no further than six furlongs last year. Here, he’ll face several others who prefer to run on or near the lead. There is a good chance that he is just much faster than his competition.
NOT THAT BRADY [ML 12-1] Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. After winning a New York-Bred Stakes Race in fine fashion, Rodriguez decided to take a shot in the Withers and he ran big, losing to TAX by just a head. The Gotham is a much tougher test for him.
TIKHVIN FLEW [ML 20-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Dylan Davis. This son of STREET SENSE has been in the New York based division of the Asmussen barn since his impressive debut victory in January at Aqueduct. In his second start he finished third in the Jimmy Winkfield last month behind HAIKAL. Since then he has been training smartly and does have the home track advantage, but takes a major jump up in class here.
Summary: This renewal of the Gotham brings together one of the race’s strongest fields in recent years given the mix of horses shipping in versus those with prior experience at Aqueduct. There’s also an intriguing dynamic between the horses that like to be on or near the lead and those that are clear closers.
The deep and tiring track at Aqueduct is not an easy surface for shippers. However, for the most part, the Big A has been a very fair surface on which race dynamics have determined the Winners. There are horses in this race that prefer to push the early pace which should provide an ideal scenario for the closers.
The bottom line in the Gotham is that regardless of how many speed horses there are in the field, INSTAGRAND may just be too fast for all of them, leaving the rest to battle for the Place spot.
But where is the Value in that ? The Daily Racing Blog will try to beat the #6 INSTAGRAM with both the #5 HAIKAL and #8 TIKHVIN FLEW. We’ll do a Trifecta Key using the #5 & #8 over the #2-3-6-7, as well as an Exacta Box with #5-6-8, along with Win bets on the #5 and 8. Best of luck no matter how you play it.