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Mar 08, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-GOTHAM

By: JOE GIRARDI


               On March 2nd at Aqueduct they hosted the only Kentucky Derby prep race of the week when they ran the Grade III Gotham Stakes, run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $400,000 and it carried a breakdown of 50, 20, 10 and 5 points for the top four runners. With just only one prep we will also take a look at two other stakes races that they had on the card.

               The Grade II Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares three years old and upward run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $200,000. A field of seven went postward with SUMMER APPLAUSE going off as the 6-5 favorite. When the gates opened NATALIE VICTORIA, the longest shot in the race but expected speed horse was left in the gate. She rushed up to make the lead by the time they hit the backstretch with SISTERLY LOVE sitting off her in second. As they moved into the turn, NATALIE VICTORIA began to tire as SISTERLY LOVE took over the lead with SUMMER APPLAUSE right on her flank. Into the lane SUMMER APPLAUSE grabbed control of the race and was clear to the wire to score by almost three lengths. TWICE THE LADY, the third choice in the race got up for second over the second choice SUNNY DESERT who checked in third. The latter, had her six race win streak snapped but she did run well considering in was her first try with graded company. SUMMER APPLAUSE was making her first try in the Chad Brown barn and will be looking to build on her 2012 campaign which saw her make her last start in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks when she checked in fourth. This was her first win of 2013 and a good starting point for this four year old filly by Harlan’s Holiday.

               In the 9th race of the day, the Grade III Tom Fool, a handicap race for three year olds and upward run over six furlongs with a purse of $200,000. The slight favorite in the race was COMMA TO THE TOP, who was shipping in from California off just a week’s rest. The five year old gelding from the Peter Miller barn, set the pace through leisurely fractions considering the competition, 22:4, 46:1, he was still there into the lane but was challenged in midstretch by SATURDAY’S CHARM. He was actually passed but battled back to get the nose win in a final time of 1:10:1. SATURDAY’S CHARM who just missed was second by a length over HEAD HEART HOOF who checked in third. Already a millionaire that win put COMMA TO THE TOP over the $1.1 million dollar mark.

               In the 10th race, the Gotham Stakes, a field of 11 went postward with OVERANALYZE going off as the 8-5 favorite. When the gates opened, WEST HILLS GIANT was sent to the lead causing some crowding when he crossed over. He set fractions of 24, 48:3, 1:12:3 while being tracked by TRANSPARENT. As they moved into the lane WEST HILLS GIANT still held the lead at 33-1 but VYJACK, the second choice and undefeated three year old gelding was closing in. He rolled on by the leaders late to score by more than two lengths. WEST HILLS GIANT held well for second while ELNAAWI ran very well for third after encountering some trouble on the first turn, racing wide and then again some trouble through the lane. OVERANALYZE who was wide on the turn and down the backside could do no better than fifth. The final time of the race was 1:44 flat run in the same time as the Top Flight stakes a few races earlier. That win ran VYJACK’s record to 4 for 4 and one for one with his new rider Joel Rosario. This three year old gelding who is trained by Rudy Rodriguez used different tactics to win the Gotham. His first three races came with a pace pressing style and this time he took back to 8th early on before coming wide into the lane and easily running down the leaders. It looks like the plan would be to stay in New York and race in the Wood Memorial on April 6th. The second and third place finishers are also expected for this race as well. Although VYJACK is the hot horse now with that big win I can’t wait to see ELNAAWI run back with that experience and with more distance to come. These three year old prep races are starting to get very interesting as we are now less than two months away from the Kentucky Derby.



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