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Mar 09, 2012

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               There was just one Derby prep over the March 3rd-4th weekend and that race came in the form of the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. The Gotham was for a long time run over one turn over the main track at Aqueduct but over the last seven years it has been run over two turns on the inner track.

               The two year old champion, HANSEN, was making his second start of the year after finishing second at Gulfstream in the Holy Bull Stakes. He drew post position 12 for the Gotham and he carried the top weight in the race of 123 pounds. Sent off as the odds-on choice he broke well but was four wide into the first turn. He stalked the longshot KING AND CRUSADER through the first six furlongs through fractions 23:3, 47:2, 1:11:4. As they approached the top of the lane HANSEN took over the lead into and quickly opened up to lead by three lengths over second choice MY ADONIS who was six lengths clear of the show horse, FINNEGANS WAKE who bested TIGER WALK by a head for third.

               The final time of the race was a decent 1:43:4 and HANSEN proved again that he can handle the two turn distance and is expected to come back for the Wood Memorial on April 7th at Aqueduct but that race will be run over the main track instead of the inner track.

               DAN AND SHELIA, the third choice in the race who was coming off a fourth place finish in the LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds disappointed checking in 11th. This Todd Pletcher trainer may be better suited to the turf and will probably be off the Derby Trail.

               Some horses to look for out of this race besides HANSEN and the second place finisher MY ADONIS, would be third place finisher FINNEGANS WAKE who was making just his first try over a dry main track and can only improve off that third place finish. TIGER WALK is another improving three year old that could jump up in his next prep at longs odds, he is well bred and seems to improve with each start.

               Earlier on the Gotham card, IT’S TRICKY one of the top three year old fillies from last year made her four year old debut in the Grade II Top Flight Handicap against four other rivals. Sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the race she was able to stalk the leader from second right from the start behind LOVE AND PRIDE. Through fractions of 24, 47:4, 1:11:3, IT’S TRICKY took over into the lane and drew away to go on and score by almost three lengths in a slow final time of 1:45:1, over a second slower than the Gotham Stakes later in the card. That ran her record to six wins in 10 starts and moved her earnings close to the $1.2 million dollar mark. She should have gained plenty from that experience and she looks primed for a big year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

               The Grade III Tom Fool was also on the undercard of the Gotham and it featured a very salty six horse field with the return of CALEB’S POSSE, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. However, this was just his first start since that race and this was probably going to serve as a prep for the Carter Handicap on Wood Memorial Day with the ultimate goal being the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont on May 28th, so he was sent off as the second choice at 2-1. The favorite in the race was the lightly raced EMCEE, who was just two for two in his career but was still sent off at 6-5. As the gates opened, ROYAL CURRIER 10-1 longshot was sent out to the lead with EMCEE in close pursuit through fractions for 22:2, 44:4. As they entered the lane, ROYAL CURRIER dug deep and EMCEE also battled on but CALIBRACHOA, the third choice in the race was bearing down and eventually got up for the win late by a neck in a solid final time of 1:09 flat. CALEB’S POSSE, who was well back early on closed well to finish a fast closing second with EMCEE another ¾’s of a length back in third. It looks like the top three might be coming back for the Carter on the Aqueduct main track. CALIBRACHOA, who has won half of his starts, 10 wins from 20 starts but he is undefeated from five starts over the inner track. CALEB’S POSSE would appreciate a bit more ground in the Carter and EMCEE should have gained some very valuable experience and can only get better. This sprint division looks like a good one and the Carter in less than a month should be a very exciting race.

              



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