Five underrated Gotham winners that should not be forgotten

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

March 4th, 2016

Like most New York features the Gotham (G3), which will be renewed at Aqueduct on Saturday, has a rich and storied past. However, it's impact on the classics has lessened since the days when it preceded the Wood Memorial (G1) by two weeks and the Kentucky Derby (G1) by four.

Racing fans with an interest in the sport's history are well aware of the more notable Gotham winners like Secretariat, Dr. Fager, Easy Goer and Native Dancer. However, a number of good winners of the Gotham did not go on and win a classic or a divisional championship, or make it to the Hall of Fame.

In the first part of a series looking back at underrated winners of Kentucky Derby preps, here are five winners of the Gotham that should not be forgotten.

Stay Thirsty (2011)

Arguably one of the best Gotham winners of the current inner-track era, the Todd Pletcher trainee rebounded from poor efforts in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby to make a late push for three-year-old champion honors with a close second in the Belmont S. (G1) and back-to-back wins in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1).

Though his championship aspirations were derailed that fall and his four-year-old campaign had more valleys than peaks, he ended his career on a high note, finishing a head second to Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) before beating dual sprint champion mare Groupie Doll in a thrilling renewal of the Cigar Mile (G1).

Irgun (1994)

Unraced at two, the Sunny's Halo colt advanced far and fast at three when taking the Gotham by six lengths in his third start, and following up with a 1 1/2-length score over Go for Gin in the Wood Memorial.

A foot abscess knocked him out of the Kentucky Derby, won by Go for Gin, and a 1996 comeback ended after one poor showing. After posting back-to-back BRIS Speed ratings of 102-106 in the Gotham and Wood, it's unfortunate he was unable to showcase his talents at Churchill Downs in a field that included eventual Horse of the Year Holy Bull and dual classic winner Tabasco Cat.

As Indicated (1993)

He won the Gotham by a mere neck and then ran up the track in the Wood Memorial before bypassing the Triple Crown. However, the Czaravich colt concluded his career with six consecutive wins while posting BRIS Speed ratings of 106-110-109-110-105-106.

His brief four-year-old campaign consisted of decisive wins in the Aqueduct H. (G3), Assault H. (G3), Grey Lag H. (G3) under 127 pounds, and Pimlico Special (G1), the latter over 1992 Gotham dead-heat winner Devil His Due. Regrettably, infirmities prevented him from building upon that remarkable start to the season.

General Assembly (1979)

For many years Secretariat's most successful son, he was unluckily foaled the same year as Spectacular Bid and thus played second banana to the great champion in the Champagne (G1), Laurel Futurity (G1), Kentucky Derby (G1), and Marlboro Cup (G1); in other words, more times than his connections cared to remember.

In addition to winning the Gotham by three lengths, he saved his best for Saratoga winning the Hopeful (G1) at two and the Travers at three, the latter in a still-standing track record of 2:00. He also displayed a fine sprinting prowess, concluding his three-year-old season and career winning the seven-furlong Vosburgh (G2) by two lengths.

Fisherman (1954)

A performer at the highest level for four seasons, this C.V. Whitney homebred won 11 stakes and placed in 14 others during a productive 45-race career. In addition to winning the Gotham, Champagne, and Travers, he earned his signature victory in the 1954 Washington, D.C. International, defeating Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up Banassa.

Two years later, he and his stablemate, 1956 Gotham winner and grass champion Career Boy, both competed in the Arc. They finished ninth and fourth, respectively, fair performances in the circumstances considering the winner was the undefeated Italian great Ribot.

(General Assembly photo: Bob Coglianese Photos)