Aqueduct: The Grade III, $400,000 Gotham at 1 1/16 miles
#2 Champion Boy: Maiden actually didn’t run poorly to be fifth in his two-turn debut behind a few of these in the local GIII Withers last month but steps way up again and is up against it. There’s a lot of talent here and he did draw a nice ground-saving post, but this just isn’t a wise placement; not seeing it.
#3 Escapefromreality: While Withers winner Revolutionary got all the publicity—and rightfully so—for winning after a trip from hell, this pint-sized NY-bred had some trouble of his own yet was right there on the line in what was his stakes, two-turn and open company debut. So point being, he ran a real cracker while being asked to do a lot of firsts, which speaks volumes of the type of horse he is. Lightly raced and improving runner drew perfectly, should save all the ground and sit a dream trip just off the speed while getting first run on the closers; lots to like from the pick.
#4 Ore Pass: Laurel invader stretches out off a minor stakes score going seven furlongs and could prove the one to catch early with this inside draw. Son of champion 2yo War Pass has a nice pedigree to handle this route and he looks to be on the improve for Trombetta, but there are a lot of tall hurdles he’s got to clear to be a factor against these; tabbing for down the road.
#5 Amerigo Vespucci: Useful colt has run well in both the local GII Jerome and Withers (third and fourth, respectively) but always seems to find one or two better, so can he bridge the gap today while tackling some tough newcomers as well? Yet another who should like this cozy inside draw and he does go second-time blinkers today, but unless he’s got some more improvement coming, he’s looking at another minor award; using underneath, if at all.
#1 Transparent: The first half of the Darley/McLaughlin entry got a pretty comical chart line from his MSW win as it reads “ranged up 4w, drew clr” when in reality he was pushed about 15 lengths out into the track on the backside by a runner who bolted. Tons of talent in this corner and he’s done little wrong since adding blinkers and stretching to two turns in his last pair, so he’s got the look of a major player, even on the steep class rise; expecting a big run.
#1a Now and Then: The second half of the Darley entry was a sharp odds-on wire-to-wire winner going six furlongs in his debut, and you have to wonder if he’s entered to add some pace to the equation for his more heralded stablemate. Still, he is a son of two-time BC Classic winner Tiznow, and mom Holiday Runner did drop GI Apple Blossom winner Seventh Street for these connections, so it’s not like this dude is here just to help out his mate; adds a bit of firepower to the entry.
#6 Siete De Oros: Underrated runner has done nothing wrong since adding blinkers, finishing second, beaten a head in the Jerome, and then a fine third in the Withers, to stamp himself as major player here. Tactical sort figures to sit the right trip just off the speed, which will be a better spot than dueling on the lead from the inside like last time, so maybe he can improve a few lengths. On paper, he’s one of a few in here that will need to move forward after seemingly being stuck in neutral in his last two, but it’s not an impossible task for a talented 3yo who runs his race every time; price players have their hero.
#7 Vyjack: Undefeated gelding stretched out for the first time and was a game and determined winner of the Jerome in January and enters fresh and looking to prove his skeptics wrong once again. It’s tough to knock a horse who is 3-for-3 and has done everything they have asked so far, but this is a tougher field than he faced in the Jerome and he beat ‘Siete by a head that day, and that gelding isn’t exactly on the rung of top contenders here. Point being, you’re going to have to stomach an underlaid price on a colt who might not have as much upside as a few of the others, all while facing the toughest task of his career and a faster-than-he- wants pace scenario; making him prove it once again.
#8 Elnaawi: The third runner from McLaughlin adds Lasix off a local wire-to-wire, two-turn MSW win in the slop and is another who figures to be on or just off the early pace as he tries to negotiate the steep class rise. Son of Street Sense cost a pretty penny (500k) at auction and has the look of an exciting talent, but this is simply asking too much to soon; passing today.
#9 Sky Captain: South Florida invader enters off a solid second going 1 1/8 miles in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in what was his route debut, so you have to think he’s got a lot of upside for a loaded Casse barn. Tactical runner should sit a nice trip, but you have to wonder about the quality of that GP heat, as the horse who beat him that day, Cerro, was fried early chasing the torrid pace in last weekend’s GII Fountain of Youth at GP. Still, there’s something to be said for a lightly raced and improving 3yo at this time of the year, and aside from the yet-to-be-mentioned favorite Overanalyze, it’s not like the rest of these are world-beaters at this stage; won’t fault anyone looking this way.
#10 West Hills Giant: Longshot adds blinkers off a third in his seasonal debut in a minor six-furlong stakes here last month and could be another who wants to mix it up early in what will be his first two-turn run on the main track. Son of Frost Giant is bred for the trip and has a license to improve off that seasonal bow, but geesh, they sure did throw this NYB into the deep end of the pool; tough to tout.
#11 Overanalyze: ML favorite makes his long-awaited 3yo debut for Pletcher after a game and determined win over hotshot Normandy Invasion in fast time in the GII Remsen here over the main track last November. Repole runner brought some sketchy form to the Big A that day, but he certainly looked like a new horse in his two-turn debut, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first race back with bigger goals clearly in mind. We’ve also got to mention his post, which is a real issue with a short run into the first turn for a horse that wants to be involved in and amongst the first flight. It’s tough to oppose Pletcher these days, and he clearly brings the best and most accomplished horse to the party, but at a short price from a tough draw with the screws likely not all that tight, it seems like the right time to try and beat this toughie; using underneath.