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Mar 07, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               On Saturday March 1st Aqueduct host the Gotham Stakes, a Grade III Stakes for three year olds run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $500,000. They also hosted two other Graded Stakes, the Grade III Tom Fool for three year olds and upward run over six furlongs with a purse of $200,000. The Grade II Top Flight was also on the card, for three year old and upward fillies and mares run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $200,000.

               In the Tom Fool there was seven horses that went postward with the seven year old Strapping Groom going off as the even money favorite. When the gates opened, Dads Caps was sent to the lead outrunning Strapping Groom to the rail but he was quickly joined by the longest shot in the race Jake N Elwood who pressed him through fractions of 22:2, 45:1. As they moved into the lane Dads Caps still held the lead but Strapping Groom had him in his sights and ground down the leader to score going away by a length in a final time of 1:09:4. Dads Caps ran second for the third straight race in a stakes and Saturday’s Charm finished well for third.        

               In the Top Flight Handicap, there was only a field of five that went postward when morning line favorite Summer Applause was taken out of the race about 45 minutes before post time. That left Teen Pauline, a winner of two in a row heading into the race as the heavy favorite. She came out well from post 2, set some moderate fractions of 25, 49:2, 1:13:4 and turned it into a sprint in the stretch to score by more than two lengths. Centring closed well in the lane to just get up for second by a nose over Flash Forward who checked in a clear third.

               In the Gotham Stakes there was a field of nine that went postward with eight betting entrants. This race offered 50, 20, 10 and 5 points for the top four finishers as they try to gain entry into the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The favorite in the race was the entry of undefeated Samraat and Noble Cornerstone, who was sent off as the 2-1 favorite. Uncle Sigh was sent off as the 7-2 second choice and Harpoon was the 4-1 third choice. When the gates opened, In Trouble, another undefeated runner in the race who was coming off a September layoff, came out running from the rail post and set the pace from the start. The fractions of 23:4, 48:1, 1:12:1 were solid especially when you compare it to the Top Flight just a race earlier. As they moved up the backstretch, In Trouble, set the pace with Uncle Sigh right on him while Samraat sitting three wide waiting to pounce. As they moved into the lane, In Trouble, Uncle Sigh and Samraat battled three across the track while in tight quarters, as they came to the wire, Samraat just wouldn’t be denied and got up to score by a neck. He defeated Uncle Sigh for the second straight race and In Trouble was just another neck back in third. He was five lengths clear of the fourth place runner Financial Mogul. The final time of the race was 1:44:2, three fifths of a second faster than the Top Flight Handicap.

               Moving forward off this race those three top finishers are expected to return in the Wood Memorial. Samraat and Uncle Sigh are both New York breds but they are both very talented. Samraat is undefeated from five starts and he seems to be getting better with each start. By Noble Causeway he should be able to get the Derby distance but he has only gone 1 and 1/16th miles, the Wood Memorial will tell us a lot more. Uncle Sigh, who has one win and three seconds from his four starts is by Indian Charlie out of a Pine Bluff mare so he is another who should handle the distance but again until he does it you just don’t know. The most interesting runner of the three might be In Trouble. He was undefeated in his first two starts and finished a good third in the Gotham while under pressure throughout. He was also coming off a September layoff and was making his first start longer than six furlongs. He was just a touch short but he should move way up off that effort and could be very tough in the Wood Memorial. If all three of those horses return in the Wood it should make for one exciting race and one that I would want to see.

 



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