I believe there are several horses that could take home first place honors in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. But of the 10 entered, Peppi Knows, Shrimp Dancer and Yawanna Twist have been the most consistent.
In his six previous starts, Peppi Knows (10-1) has never been out of the money and he improved his record to 4-1-1 with a first place finish in the Whirlaway Stakes last month. Peppi Knows earned a 101 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort – the highest route speed figure of all entered the Gotham. Peppi Knows defeated Afleet Again and Three Day Rush in the Whirlaway and I believe that he has the most room for improvement in his second start of the season.
In seven starts, Shrimp Dancer (12-1) has only been off the board once and he has been in the money in the other six races. Since switching to dirt, Shrimp Dancer’s speed figures have been in the 90’s range which is better than most of the others entered in the Gotham. Shrimp Dancer should benefit from the added distance and at 12-1 morning line odds, he looks like an interesting long shot.
Of all the horse entered, Yawanna Twist (5-1) and lukewarm 7-2 favorite Awesome Act may have the most room for improvement and I’m looking forward to see how well they run.
Undefeated Yawanna Twist has never run in a route race but he won his last two races, both 6-furlong sprints, by a combined 9 ½ - lengths. Yawanna Twist is from the Cherokee Run sire line which produced the decent middle-distance runners War Pass, Recapturetheglory, The Pamplemousse and Musket Man. If he follows in the same steps, Yawanna Twist could be a factor in the Gotham.
Awesome Act has a nice pedigree but has not raced since last November when he finished fourth to Pounced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2). Awesome Act has the potential but could be up against it in the Gotham coming off the three month layoff.
Trainer Michael Machowsky already has a nice Kentucky Derby prospect in undefeated Caracortado and he’s hoping to add another one to his Derby roster when he sends the 3-1 morning line favorite Nextdoorneighbor to the starting gate of the $150,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.
After two previous attempts, Nextdoorneighbor broke his maiden last month and he will be making his stakes debut in the Sham. Nextdoorneighbor has been working out good with stablemate Caracortado and a bullet work February 15 suggests that he could be ready to run a good race. But, I’m not so sure he is as good as Caracortado, who I like a lot, and I believe there are others in here that could pull off the upset.
Lightly-raced Kettle River (6-1) looks like he could be ready to run a real good race. In his maiden debut last August, Kettle River finished a poor sixth, beaten by 9 ½ - lengths in a 6-furlong sprint at Saratoga. Trainer Eoin Harty gave Kettle River a three month break and brought him back in 8.5-furlong race on the turf which he won by 1 ¼ - lengths.
Last month, Kettle River won another 8.5-furlong race at Santa Anita and earned a 92 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort. His speed figures have improved with every race and I believe that he will be very competitive in this race.
Outlaw Man (6-1) breaks from post number three for trainer Ken McPeek. His last three races were on the turf and McPeek drops him back in distance for today’s race. Outlaw Man broke his maiden last time out and he has finished in the money in his last two races. I look for him to be competitive.
In his maiden debut last September, Setsuko (7-2) finished fourth in a 5 ½ - furlong sprint at Del Mar. Since then, Setsuko has run in five route races, finishing in the money in every outing. His speed figures are consistently in the 80’s and on par with the other runners in this race. I look for him