Five things to know for Gotham

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 3rd, 2017

The New York road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) continues with Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, the penultimate in the series that concludes with the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) on April 8.

Although the Gotham is contested at the same 1 1/16-mile journey over the inner track as the most recent prep, the February 4 Withers (G3), its timing later on the trail makes it worth five times as many Kentucky Derby points. The Gotham awards 50 points to the winner, with 20-10-5 to the respective second, third, and fourth.

Accordingly, the Gotham has attracted a deeper cast, including shippers from California and Florida.

Here are my five things to know for the Gotham:

1. The streaking El Areeb will likely get sterner competition than in his Jerome (G3) and Withers romps, but it might not matter. If you’re probing for vulnerabilities, trainer Cathal Lynch was thinking of skipping this race and training up to his final Derby prep next month. But El Areeb was doing too well to keep him in the barn. So the Laurel-based dynamo is back on the van for another raid on Aqueduct, only this time, the 123-pound highweight will concede weight to a better grade of opponent.

Still, “better” is a relative term. El Areeb has had so much in hand over his rivals that this may be more a case of someone finally forcing him to get out of second gear, or making for a tighter margin, than actually upsetting him. Unbeatable in his last four, the gray has looked a class apart in his Laurel sprints, in the muddy Jerome in his first try over a route, and again on a fast track in the Withers. He’s been equally effective on the pace, or reserved a couple of lengths back early. That gives regular rider Trevor McCarthy the flexibility to work out the right trip as the race unfolds, and makes the 6-5 favorite tougher to knock off.

2. California Derby winner So Conflated can unleash a strong, sustained closing kick. Rerouted here after drawing post 14 in last Saturday’s Risen Star (G2), the “other gray” is the most attractive alternative to El Areeb at 8-1.

So Conflated brings some useful formlines from the West Coast. The Doug O’Neill trainee was third in his Del Mar debut to Bob Baffert’s American Anthem, who nearly beat Gormley in the Sham (G3) and looms large in the March 18 Rebel (G2). So Conflated hooked another Baffert, Dabster, on opening day at Santa Anita, finished a hard-charging second by a head, and was awarded the victory via disqualification.

In his stakes and two-turn debut in the California Derby, So Conflated lost position at the top of the stretch, yet shrugged it off and rolled home to win going away. He lugged in, but straightened up, and ought to benefit from that education. Although Golden Gate’s Tapeta isn’t necessarily a clue to Aqueduct’s inner, So Conflated’s poise in adversity, and his athleticism, are. As long as the Eskendereya ridgling doesn’t give himself too much to do from off the pace, he can shake things up down the lane.

3. Unbeaten Action Everyday has speed, with quirks to iron out, in his stakes debut for Todd Pletcher. Two-for-two so far, both at Tampa Bay Downs, the son of The Factor created a much more positive impression first time out sprinting. Action Everyday was on cruise control and won handily by four lengths. But back at the same venue to try two turns, he jinked in the stretch, allowed a rival to close the gap on the inside, and swished his tail in a sign of potential temperament issues.

Action Everyday adds blinkers for the Gotham, which could be the answer to his loss of focus. His good early speed is also an asset around the inner track, but he’s drawn the far outside post 10. The concern is how much gas Action Everyday will have to burn to angle over from there. Otherwise, he’s got quite a bit of upside.

4. Cloud Computing is a very smart prospect for Chad Brown, but this may come too soon in just his second start. The Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence colorbearer broke his maiden here February 11 in the style of a good colt. Totally flubbing the start and putting himself behind the proverbial eight-ball in last, he overcame his miscue with a strong rally to blow by them all. That was six furlongs, though, and the Gotham is a tough spot to try routing and face winners.

From the first crop of the Distorted Humor stallion Maclean’s Music, Cloud Computing comes from a fine family. His dam, Quick Temper, is a Grade 2-placed daughter of A.P. Indy and Grade 1-winning millionaire Halo America. But there’s no substitute for experience, and Cloud Computing may need a little more seasoning. The Gotham can afford him that learning opportunity.

5. Of those who chased El Areeb home in the Withers – True Timber (second), J Boys Echo (third), and Apartfromthecrowd (fifth) – the latter may take the biggest step forward here.

True Timber should get a better trip than in the Withers, where he took a nosedive out of the gate and rushed up to set the pace. The Kiaran McLaughlin pupil may be better with a target, and he’ll presumably get one with more obvious pace presence signed on. Beaten 11 lengths by El Areeb when third in the Jerome, and 4 1/4 lengths in the Withers, True Timber is at least going in the right direction.

The Dale Romans-trained J Boys Echo stamped himself as one to follow when being slammed into the Keeneland rail, yet coming through anyway to break his maiden resoundingly. The Mineshaft colt has been a work in progress at the graded stakes level, along for a distant fourth in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) and doing his best work late for third in the Withers. J Boys Echo endured a wide trip from post 10 last time, but will save all the ground here from the rail. While he’ll be chugging in the final stages, we might not see the best of him until he gets to the 1 1/8-mile preps, and beyond.

Apartfromthecrowd represents the same connections as Cloud Computing, only with more experience under his belt. As a good-looking maiden winner over a route on this track, the Gio Ponti colt was expected to do better than a lackluster fifth in the Withers. But his training pattern coming into this race is much stronger – two swift half-mile moves (as opposed to one maintenance-type work before the Withers). If an eight-length form turnaround with El Areeb is a bit much, he doesn’t have to sharpen up that much to turn the tables on True Timber and J Boys Echo at a healthier 12-1.

Good luck with your Gotham handicapping – be sure to consult the free PPs!

El Areeb photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher