Grade III Gotham Stakes Analysis, Aqueduct Racetrack – 3/1/2014

The Grade III Gotham Stakes will be run tomorrow at Aqueduct, with post time set for 4:17 ET. After breaking this race down, I’m not sure that there are any true Kentucky Derby prospects in the field. That said – I feel like this could be “leg two” of what could be a truly great racing rivalry between two solid New York breds.

When looking at incremental splits, you’d have to believe Joe Rocco, Jr. will be sending In Trouble to the front. The Tony Dutrow entrant hasn’t been seen since winning the Grade II Futurity at Belmont in September, but there’s no denying that the colt has talent. After sitting close to the pace in each of his two victories as a two year old sprinting, I’d expect him to be the pacemaker while stretching out to two turns for the first time in his career. Dutrow is solid when it comes to having horses ready off reasonably long layoffs, but I’m still going to take a wait and see approach with this son of Tiz Wonderful.

 “Call me pessimistic, call me what you will – I don’t like to play horses that have a penchant for coming up short time and time again. “

Whenever Todd Pletcher has a three year old entered in a Kentucky Derby prep, you can be sure people will be talking about him. Pletcher will send out a Tapit colt named Harpoon in the Gotham, and he’s sure to attract plenty of attention at the windows. After a less-than-stellar trip in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa which resulted in a nosed out second, many said he was the horse that you should take out of that race. I’m not sold just yet…whether he was unlucky or not in the Grade III Davis, facts are facts – this horse has run second in four of his five career starts. Call me pessimistic, call me what you will – I don’t like to play horses that have a penchant for coming up short time and time again. I’ll pass on Harpoon.

Extrasexyhippzster is an interesting entrant that is shipping into Long Island from his home in Maryland, and he could very well prove to be a formidable foe in the Gotham. The Michael Trombetta trained runner has won back-t0-back  listed stakes by open lengths, and the real positive about this colt is the fact that he’s won said races over both the Aqueduct inner dirt and the main track at Laurel Park. The water is considerably deeper in this spot, but he should sit a very nice, stalking trip and could be the main threat to two horses I think are the class of the field.

Just because I don’t think there are any Kentucky Derby prospects doesn’t mean there aren’t any nice horses in this year’s Gotham. Uncle Sigh and Samraat each ran a race for the ages in the Grade III Withers at the beginning of February, and I expect each of them to run similar races here in this spot, as well. I don’t like either of their pedigrees when it comes to the ten furlongs of the Kentucky Derby, mainly because they each have Indian Charlie influences – and Indian Charlie’s best runners excel between six and eight and a half furlongs. Lucky for all of us, the Gotham is run at eight and a half furlongs. Samraat got the better of Uncle Sigh in the Withers, but I expect Uncle Sigh to turn the tables tomorrow for one major reason – the weight break. In the Withers, Uncle Sigh carried 116 pounds and Samraat carried 118 pounds, with Samraat’s final margin of victory being a length. Tomorrow’s scenario is different – Samraat will carry 123 pounds to Uncle Sigh’s 116. I’m not huge on the whole “carrying more weight” angle…at the end of the day I’m not convinced a 1,200 pound animal is going to be able to tell the difference between 126 pounds and 123 pounds. That said, when there is a seven pound weight break between two horses that were so close in their prior race, I can’t help but think the weight difference is beneficial to Uncle Sigh. I like Uncle Sigh to win the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct.

SELECTION: #4 – Uncle Sigh, Corey Nakatani; ML 3-1

Matt Bernier picMatt Bernier was the youngest qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) this past year and he is one of the stars of the Esquire series Horseplayers.  This is his first guest post for

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