Friday, March 3, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Gotham Stakes (G3)

El Areeb the Smart Gotham Stakes Choice

By: Nick Costa, Trackside with Trackman

Two months of preparation, workouts, racing, and some fine tuning remain before the first Saturday in May. Three-year olds with Kentucky Derby aspirations hit the Big Apple this week to showcase their talents in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Race Track. Traditionally, the contest serves as a prep for the Wood Memorial and over several decades, big-time superstars such as Dr Fager (1967) and Secretariat (1973) have won the Gotham.

Chad Brown won last year with Shagaf and the trainer looks for a repeat as he saddles up a pair of runners. A total of ten combatants will clash on the inner dirt track at a distance of one-mile and a sixteenth in this G3 event that has a purse of $300k dollars. The race doles out Kentucky Derby points in a 50-20-10-5 allotment to the first four finishers. Let take a look at the participants from the rail out.

PP Horse - Jockey/Trainer

1     J Boys Echo - Albarado/Romans--Kentucky-bred colt got his first journey over the inner strip last month in the Withers and the 3rd-place effort was very commendable. He broke from the far outside post that day and was wide because of it. Today he gets the extreme inside draw, and must find a way to turn things around over the top two that handled him pretty easily at Aqueduct. He stepped into stakes company for the first time two starts back and finished fourth in the G3 Delta Downs Jackpot. Overall record has been decent, but I'm not sure if he can make an impact here, but figures in the exotics.

2     Gaetano - C Velasquez/Preciado--Ships in from Parx with the most experience in the group, having 10 career starts. Took this horse some time to figure things out, plus last time out in a starter allowance, he was all-out to win by a scant nose. He broke his maiden in maiden claiming company, immediately throwing up a red flag to me about his ability. This is a massive jump in class. For longshot dreamers only.

3    Miggsy - Arroyo/Rodriguez--Makes his stakes debut and is one of two in here from this trainer who is winning at a 22% clip at this meet. Colt has ran well in his brief three race career, two of them on this track, but he barely held on to win against maidens last time out. Pass.

4  El Areeb - McCarthy/Lynch--In his current four race winning streak, he announced himself as one of the leading contenders on the Triple Crown trail with dominating wins in the G3 Jerome Stakes and Withers Stakes, both on the inner track at the Big A. This guy has been knocked unfairly because of the NY winter competition he's faced, which has been moderate at best, but its not his fault he keeps winning. He'll need tougher company to prove he belongs with the elite, but that opportunity must wait at least another start, as the opponents he tackles here are 0 for 5 collectively in graded stakes attempts and don't appear to be any world beaters. His affinity for the inner track is definitely a mighty advantage. Has worked fast in the interim for this race. Drew well and is obvious favorite.

5     Glennrichment - Cancel/Rodriguez--The other half of the Rodriquez duo. Has just one runner-up finish in his three career starts, and that came last time out over this track last month. Colt has shown steady improvement, but he's still a maiden and is way over his head in this spot.

6  True Timber - Carmouche/McLaughlin--Stumbled badly at the start of the Withers last out, was rushed up to set the pace, and then put in a game effort to hold second. Following a nice maiden score from off-the-pace in his second lifetime race back in December, he was stretched out two-turns for the first time and finished a well beaten third in the Jerome over a muddy track, in what was the stakes debut for this colt. He broke his maiden on this inner surface last year with a closing run from far back. Has a bit of upside and could get a piece, but I don't envision him winning.

7     Apartfromthecrowd - Vargas, Jr/Brown --One of two from the Chad Brown stable. He broke maiden ranks in a sharp effort two starts back here at Aqueduct, but was a somewhat disappointing fifth last out in the Withers. Colt has raced okay in his brief career, and will garner some respect because of his sensational trainer, but will need a career-defining performance to get it done.

8     So Conflated - Gutierrez/O'Neill--Last out, he was victorious in the 100k Cal Derby on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate, and two starts back he was moved up to first in a race where he finished second by a nose. Could have stayed in California, but shipped to the Fairgrounds last week for the Risen Star, but scratched due to a wide post draw. Now has been shipped to New York for his first graded encounter, so trainer O'Neill, who is trying to get this runner on the Derby trail, must think his horse can handle the journey. Has talent and has faced quality company in his races on the West Coast. If he can work out a good trip, he's a major threat.

9     Cloud Computing - Franco/Brown--Another runner sent out by trainer Chad Brown. Was well bet in his 6-furlong debut and he sure did not disappoint with a smart looking maiden win, after overcoming a poor start. His bloodline indicates he should get better with extra ground. Colt looks to keep the momentum going and the barn wins 26% with runners going from a sprint to a route. Not ignoring this one.

10  Action Everyday - Maragh/Pletcher--Colt has won both of his starts, including breaking his maiden in fine fashion over 7-furlongs at Tampa against one of his stablemates no less, and could even have more to offer. Takes a major step up in class and gets equipped with blinkers for this, his stakes debut.

 Having enough speed to establish good early position could prove to be the key to victory in this renewal of the Gotham Stakes. The pace shouldn't be inordinately slow like it was in the  Withers, but it doesn't appear like it will be blazing either. The race seems to set up well for El Areeb. The Cathal Lynch runner has flashed some of the best early foot in the field, as well as the best speed figures and has also displayed adaptability. Jockey Trevor McCarthy, if he chooses, can control the pace, or rate in behind the lead before asking his mount to do what he does best.

The Pick: I hate picking the favorite, but El Areeb is the choice. However, betting on him at paltry win odds is out of the question. He's looked very professional his last two races. Both times receiving good trips and should benefit from another one out of post four. It's not a tough group, and he is truly the class of the field. 

I will use him in the win spot in my exactas and trifectas over: So Conflated - Cloud Computing - J Boys Echo and True Timber.

Good luck and as always, enjoy the race.


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