Derby Trail Preview: Gotham (G3)

An excellent card at Aqueduct on Saturday wraps up with the Gotham (G3), the local prep for next month’s Wood Memorial.

Previously: San Felipe.

The race is headed by Firenze Fire, who has been based in New York this winter and Florida invaders Free Drop Billy and Enticed, who both exit the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.

Let’s go through the field and remember, this is a one-turn mile.

#1 Dial Operator (10-1) – We are rooting for this Jersey-bred who comes in out of an impressive 4 1/2 length allowance win at Laurel for Jason Servis. Both of his wins have been impressive, though the first was against Jersey-breds and the allowance win did fall apart. Further, he has to stretch for 5.5 furlongs out to a mile and deal with some pretty talented runners. We could use him underneath, but it’s tough to get him to the winner’s circle.

#2 Cove Blue (30-1) – Dale Romans sends up two for this race and Cove Blue is the first. He was overmatched going two-turns last time against Storm Runner (who got a bad trip in the Fountain of Youth) and Mississippi (who has yet to run back). He did set a solid pace today, but will have pace pressure to deal with in this race.

#3 Beautiful Shot (8-1) – Keith Desormeaux, who shipped from California to win the Southwest with My Boy Jack, ships this son of Trappe Shot. He won his first two starts before finishing third, beaten nine lengths in the Bob Hope in November at Del Mar. He has the right running style for this and a mile seems perfect, but we’re not sure if he’s good enough to beat the solid favorites.

#4 Whereshetoldmetogo (15-1) – This son of El Padrino chased the impressive Mask two-back in the Mucho Macho Man before an impressive win in a starter stakes last time at Gulfstream. That said, he defeated a very weak field that day and his second to Bal Harbour from the Smooth Air wouldn’t get him much in this field.

#5 Firenze Fire (5-2) – We’ve been skeptical of this horse as a legit Derby prospect this year and consider him more of a miler, and of course, today’s race is a one-turn mile, the same distance at which Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes in October. His seasonal debut at a mile in the Jerome was excellent, as he ran down loose-on-the-lead Seven Trumpets, and then kept trying in the Withers (though he did get a good trip) going nine furlongs. Back at this distance, he’s an obvious contender.

#6 Free Drop Billy (9-5) – Dale Romans has had this son of Union Rags on the Derby trail, but we’ve always thought that his best races were his one-turn tries earlier last year, especially the six-furlong Hopeful (yes, Firenze Fire did beat him by a length in the six furlong Sanford). His Holy Bull was fine, though he had no answer for Audible at the top of the stretch. Back to a one-turn mile, however, should hit him right between the eyes, and though he’s the favorite, we make him the one to beat.

#7 Old Time Revival (15-1) – Kenneth Decker sends up this one from Laurel where he was just beaten in the Miracle Wood last time at 34-1. He’ll be part of the pace here and have to hold off some solid runners in what was a far tougher field than he’s ever dealt with before.

#8 Nine Route (30-1) – Jeremiah Englehart and Bill Parcells send out this son of The Factor who won the state-bred Gander three weeks back. He won a strange race where the big favorite was rated and that left Nine Route alone on the lead where he set a moderate pace in slop. He’s overmatched here.

#9 Enticed (7-2) – I think the toughest decision that you have to make in this race is how to handle Enticed. He ran very well in the Champagne last year, being close to a fast pace that collapsed. Then, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club, albeit with a great trip. However, the son of the excellent race-mare It’s Tricky was dreadful in the Holy Bull. He drew post 1, saved ground, and while he did take some dirt, had nothing. He could have needed the race, and maybe he didn’t like the track. He is also drawn very well here and will be the best price of the favorites.

The Pace – There are some speed horses in here, notably Cove Blue, Nine Route, and Old Time Revival, and all three seem overmatched, which shouldn’t handicap any running style.

Analysis – I think Free Drop Billy is the most likely winner and while Firenze Fire is back at his best distance, we’d put Enticed second as he’ll be a better price. It’s probably not a great race to bet unless you feel strongly about one of the top three (we don’t). In the all-stakes late pick-4, for which we’ll map out a play on here later this morning, we’d use Free Drop Billy and Enticed as As and Firenze Fire as a B.

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