The Morning Line: The Gotham Stakes

Gotham Boasts Champion Hansen

When is enough enough?  When a trainer, jockey, or horseman scores their first win may be one answer.  But then that win makes the person want a second and then a third and then a fourth and so on.  To win your home track’s premier race of the season may be another possibility to say enough is enough.  But what if your home track is Churchill Downs?  For the current crop of 3 yr. olds in training, enough is a secured post position in the 138th Kentucky Derby.  In two months, 20 of the best will line up as individual beings in search of the most prestigous crown in all of racing.  One horse has already punched his ticket, doing so in dramatic fashion last November in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  His name is Hansen and as great of champion as he is, he still has a little more to prove before claiming a 3 yr. old crown.

New York City serves as the backdrop to the electric energy that will likely be radiating from Aqueduct on Saturday.  A sizable winning purse will be up for grabs as a field of 13 take to the post in the G.2 $400,000 Gotham Stakes.  Run at 1 1/16 on the inner track at Aqueduct, Hansen has drawn the 12 hole and has been installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite.  The field of 13 is one of the larger fields for the Grade 2 race in recent years and the allure of a $400,000 purse is mainly to blame.

Hansen is clearly the class act of the field on paper and in terms of production.  His 2 yr. old season was a raving success that culminated with a Breeders’ Cup title, an undefeated season, and an Eclipse Award for top 2 yr. old male.  All eyes were on the talented colt on Jan. 20 as he made his 3 yr. old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.  He set the pace, but was easily beaten by Algorithms; finishing second by five lengths.  But that hasn’t deterred trainer Mike Maker and jockey Ramon Dominguez one bit.  The pair have re-teamed north of Miami in the Big Apple to correct any previous mistakes and challenge all other 3 yr. olds to a fist fight that could possibly culminate in the derby.

To say the Gotham is Hansen’s race to lose is a dramatic understatement.  Yes, he has secured his spot in the derby.  Yes, he is a talented colt with accolades to prove it.  But he needs to show the public that he can do it day in and day out.  A win in the Gotham will vindicate his Holy Bull loss and tighten the focus on the Kentucky Derby.  But this is racing and any horse on their best day is capable of winning.

Three other horses have made the long trip from south Florida to New York along with Hansen.  Dan and Sheila, Maan, and Stealcase all represent higher odds on the tote board but have had recent success in terms of moving forward.  Todd Pletcher, who won the Gotham last year with Stay Thirsty, sends Dan and Sheila for owner Zayat Stables.  Dan and Sheila finished 4th in the Lecomte on Jan. 21 at the Fair Grounds in only his second career start.  Maan brings a 2 for 2 streak into the Gotham and Stealcase found the winner’s circle in his last race after stretching out in distance after two previous sprint races.  Pletcher also has entered 15-1 choice Raconteur, owned by Dogwood Stables.

Hansen’s biggest challenge may come from the rail in the form of My Adonis.  My Adonis had front running wins at Monmouth Park and Delta Downs and has a brief history with Hansen.  After a bad start, My Adonis rallied to finish third in the Holy Bull Stakes, a half length behind Hansen.  Trainer Kelly Breen must be high on his derby prospect by entering in the Gotham instead of remaining in Florida as well.  He has been installed as the second choice on the board at 5-1.

$400,000 Gotham (gr. III, Race 10, 5:02 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. My Adonis (KY), E Trujillo, 120, K J Breen, 5-1
2. Stealcase (KY), L Contreras, 116, M E Casse, 12-1
3. Finnegans Wake (KY), K J Desormeaux, 116, D L Romans, 20-1 
4. Pretension (NY), J Santiago, 116, C W Grove, 20-1 
5. Maan (KY), R Maragh, 116, E Kenneally, 15-1
6. Dan and Sheila (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher, 8-1 
7. Suns Out Guns Out (KY), I Ortiz Jr., 116, D L Romans, 30-1
8. Raconteur (KY), C H Velasquez, 120, T A Pletcher, 15-1
9. King and Crusader (MD), M J Luzzi, 116, R E Dutrow Jr., 15-1
10. Side Road (KY), A Garcia, 116, K P McLaughlin, 12-1
11. Done Talking (KY), D Cohen, 116, H A Smith, 20-1
12. Hansen (KY), R A Dominguez, 123, M J Maker, 6-5 
13. Tiger Walk (KY), E Castro, 116, I Correas IV, 12-1

Absent from the Gotham Stakes is G.3 Withers winner Alpha.  The Godolphin owned colt has elected to bypass the Gotham and train up to either the Florida Derby on 3/31the Wood Memorial on 4/7.  The Gotham Stakes will be the or  feature race on the card that also includes the G.2 Top Flight Handicap and the G.3 Tom Fool Handicap.  There may be a chance of a wet track on Saturday as well.  However, the conditions will likely be in good shape by post time for the Gotham.

We are two months out from the Kentucky Derby and horseman and training connections must now begin to finalize their schedules in order to gain the necessary grading winnings to earn a spot on the first Saturday in May.  Saturday is the perfect time to do so, but a warrior named Hansen stands in the way.  We hope that all connections race hard and race well, but mostly we hope that everyone has a safe race and returns to their respective barns in healthy condition .  Good luck to all connections in the Gotham Stakes.  The bright lights of New York will definitely be shining and all the eyes of the racing world will definitely be watching this Saturday.

Written by Big Brink

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