The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to the empire state Saturday where the My Meadowview Farm coupled entry of Samraat and Noble Cornerstone have been selected as morning line 5-2 favorite in the 61st running of the $500,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.
Trained by Richard Violette, Jr., Samraat is the reason for the favoritism as he comes into the Gotham undefeated in four starts including wins in the Damon Runyon Stakes and the Withers Stakes (G3). He looms as the horse to beat and he should be competitive.
However, in the Withers, Samraat prevailed by one length after a hard-fought stretch battle with Uncle Sigh who is also entered in the Gotham as the 3-1 morning-line second choice to win. I look for those two to be tough in this race, too, and the 50 points for the win would be enough to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
This time around the track, though, I would not be surprised to see Uncle Sigh turn the tables on Samraat. Since his narrow loss in the Withers, Uncle Sigh has fired two back-to-back bullet work outs and he could be ready to run the best race of his career.
A newcomer to the party who could, perhaps, give those two some competition is the morning line third-choice Extrasexyhippzster (4-1) who comes into this race with a 3-0-1 record in five starts including wins in the Don Rickles Stakes and the Miracle Wood Stakes.
Extrasexyhippzster has yet to stretch out to 8½ furlongs, but his finish time of 1:36.75 in the one-mile Miracle Wood Stakes is pretty good and he has the breeding to be competitive.
So, as you can see, from this corner the Gotham looks pretty chalky and I would not be surprised to see those three bet way down with one, perhaps, at even-money odds come post time.
A long shot I like in this race is Monopolize (30-1) who comes into the Gotham with a 1-0-0 record in three starts and he will be wearing blinkers for the first time for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Despite his record, Monopolize has the breeding to be competitive in this race. His sire is the 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Bernardini and is tail-female line is reinforced by the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Thunder Gulch and Risen Star.
So far, Monopolize has not lived up to his breeding and the addition of blinkers could, perhaps, help him to be competitive. If he looks good in the post parade, Monopolize may be worthy of a small wager.
The championship series kicked off last weekend and several new horses were added to the top 20 list. Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Gotham Stakes (G3) will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive five points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 Derby qualifiers:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Intense Holiday, 53, Todd Pletcher, $327,500
2. Wildcat Red, 50, Jose Garrofalo, $410,000
3. Albano, 24, Larry Jones, $150,000
4. Tapiture, 22, Steve Asmussen, $300,738
5. Vicar’s in Trouble, 20, Mike Maker, $160,000
6. General A Rod, 20, Mike Maker, $140,000
7. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
8. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
9. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
10. Tamarando, 12, Jerry Hollendorfer, $490,000
11. Midnight Hawk, 12, Bob Baffert, $84,000
12. Bond Holder, 11, Doug O’Neill, $333,000
13. Rise Up, 10, Tom Amoss, $786,633
14. We Miss Artie, 10, Todd Pletcher, $242,000
15. Candy Boy, 10, John Sadler, $260,000
16. Samraat, 10, Rick Violette, Jr., $150,000
17. Noble Moon, 10, Leah Gyarmati, $145,000
18. Ami’s Holiday, 10, Josie Carrroll, $136,145
19. Cleburne, 10, Dale Romans, $102,044
20. Tanzanite Cat, 10, Code Autrey, $90,000