Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Gotham

Aqueduct: The Grade III, $300,000 Gotham at 1-mile (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 50-20-10-5)

by Brian Nadeau

#1 Dial Operator (10-1): Exciting newcomer has looked awesome rallying in two wins against tons lesser to kick off his career at Monmouth and Laurel Park, respectively, and now ships up I-95 for the acid test to see where he stands on the national scene. Son of Dialed In has been visually impressive in those two wins for Jason Servis, and, if you saw his return in the Laurel optional-claimer last month, you know he’s got a ton of talent and will win his fair share this year. Is he this kind? Well, that’s the question, but there seems to be enough speed in here to set him up, and if Free Drop Billy is 9-5 on the ML, you’re allowed to question the quality of the field, which means this colt is hardly out of his element; upset special from off the pace.

#2 Cove Blue (30-1): Longshot is one of two here for Romans and figures as a pace player of some kind, as he’s been on or just off the lead at the pace call of his last four starts, which includes a distant third in a two-turn AOC at Gulfstream Park last time. Son of Ghostzapper should like the return to one-turn, as his 7F MSW win at GP two-back was solid, and he does come from a barn that has a bevy of talented 3-year-olds this year, but it’s tough to envision that we consider this guy one of them after today; pace player, not much more.

#3 Beautiful Shot (8-1): Stretch-running son of Trappe Shot invades from California for Desormeaux, who already shipped and won a 3yo graded stakes this year with a similar type, as My Boy Jack rallied late to annex the GIII Southwest at Oaklawn Park, so, if nothing else, he knows how to spot his stock and take advantage of spots that seem there for the taking. And make no mistake: this is one of them, as there’s no one here to be scared of and this colt did show a lot of promise winning 2-of-3 at 2. The worry is that this is his first start of the year and he was blitzed pretty good when a distant third to no one special in Del Mar’s GIII Bob Hope in November, and while the works are solid and the pace will help his style, it’s best to watch one before taking the plunge; tabbing for down the road.

#4 Whereshetoldmetogo (15-1): Well-traveled sort comes in from a romp at GP in the minor American Fabius, where he settled early and blew the field away late, in what was by far a career-best run for Pecoraro. Of course, that’s not going to scare anyone in here, and this El Padrino colt is in the middle of the pack on paper, so there’s work left to be done for sure. The good news is the price will be right, and obviously he’s never been better, but still, you have to think he blinks where the real running begins; minor award appears his ceiling.

Firenze Fire and Manny Franco in the Jerome. NYRA/Chelsea Durand

#5 Firenze Fire (5-2): The most accomplished member of the field has taken the road less traveled this year for Servis, both literally and figuratively, as he stayed local and dodged anyone of any real consequence in winning the Jerome in January and running second in the GIII Withers last month, and this field fits nicely in with those, as it’s clearly second-tier at this point in time. Dropping back to a one-turn mile will help this son of Poseidon’s Warrior, too, as he won the GI Champagne (over 2yo champion Good Magic, no less) last fall at Belmont Park and seemed come up wanting in the 1 1/8-miles Withers last time, which suggested what a lot of people think, that he’ll make his dough this year going shorter. The pace should be right, and he was taken out of his element last time while being forced to lay close to pedestrian splits, but it also appears he’s the same horse he was at 2, which was a moderately fast sort who was able to win a few times under optimum circumstances, but not under extenuating ones, so taking this price today doesn’t seem prudent; underneath, if at all.

Robby Albarado and Free Drop Billy win the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Coady Photography

#6 Free Drop Billy (9-5): The deserving favorite was a good second behind the romping Audible in his seasonal debut in GP’s GII Holy Bull in February and has finally settled on his second start after being entered a few times around the country, with weather, stablemates, and other factors at play. The second from Romans continued a trend of a slow 2yo blowing past his best form in his 3yo debut, as that Holy Bull run was far and away the fastest this son of Union Rags has ever run, though it also has the “someone had to be second” label attached to it. On the face of it, he’s supposed to be tough in here, as the pace will suit his style, and he did do some big things as a juvenile, but he’s also a bit tough to trust and will be a huge underlay at this ML, so while he’s due a lot of respect, he’s hardly overwhelming either; second-best.

 

#7 Old Time Revival (15-1): Speedster just failed to last when second, beaten a neck, in the one-turn mile Miracle Wood at Laurel and will certainly be on the go from this outside draw today, as he’s shown only one way of running in last three starts. Homebred son of Brethren comes in for a Decker barn that rarely visits these parts, so it’s a good sign to see him enter here, even though this colt seems a bit outgunned in what is his graded stakes debut. Speed is always a dangerous asset in racing, but there’s some to his inside, and especially to his outside, so lasting to the wire doesn’t seem to be in the cards; know him early, but not late.

#8 Nine Route (30-1): Streaking New York-bred is another who will add plenty of fuel to the pace fire, as he’s essentially wired for fun in his last three starts against far lesser in the Empire ranks and will now test open foes for the first time. If you’re a fan of Jeremiah Englehart (and it’s hard not to be, for many reasons), you’re going to get your guy at a big, big price, and he doesn’t often run them where they can’t compete, but while this son of The Factor is going to have himself a nice year and build a big bankroll, this won’t be the spot that adds to the resume; pop and stop time.

#9 Enticed (7-2): The trickiest of reads made some headlines when he gutted out the GII Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs for McLaughlin to end his 2yo campaign in November and started in the Holy Bull comfortably in the top-10 of many Derby Future Books. Well, we all know how that turned out, as he was a dreadful fourth as the heavy favorite, beaten some 14 3/4 lengths by Audible, but just as importantly, 9 1/4 lengths by ‘Billy, so this son of Medaglia d’Oro better turn it around in a hurry if he wants to make any waves on the Derby Trail this year. And sure, he’s allowed to build off what was his seasonal debut, but the real thing to consider here is that this dude was sent to Florida for a major two-turn campaign, so after one poor run, to see him rerouted to South Ozone Park for the (in the grand scheme of things) minor one-turn GIII Gotham isn’t a ringing endorsement of not only his current form, but what they think of his prospects either; “prove it” time.

Selections:

 #1 Dial Operator

 #6 Free Drop Billy

 #9 Enticed

 #5 Firenze Fire

 

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