There are only eight runners going to post Saturday in the Gotham at Aqueduct, but there are a few runners drawing the eyes of horse racing fans on the march to the Kentucky Derby.
The one-mile, one-turn race is the 9th on the Aqueduct care and is scheduled to go off at 2:07 p.m. PDT. The horses are racing for a point scale of 50-20-10-5. The winner pretty much locks up a Derby spot.
Here are the top runners.
Highly Motivated (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano/8-5) is the morning line favorite and is drawing a lot of attention for a horse that has not raced since early November.
When last seen he flew home for the win in the Nyquist at Keeneland, in a race where the second and third place horses came back to win their next starts.
Even though this will be the first start at a route, the connections feel comfortable that he will handle the distance after a strong gallop-out following the last win. He has put out a strong and consistent work tab for the return and looks every bit the favorite.
Freedom Fighter (Bob Baffert/Manny Franco/5-2) ships across the country for Baffert after a second in the San Vincente at Santa Anita. After getting passed in the lane by stablemate and highly touted Concert Tour, Freedom Fighter dug in a fought back, losing only by a half-length.
The San Vincente was his first start since his August debut so expect an even better effort here. He has set the pace in both starts, so expect the same here.
Baffert has been known to spread out his runners during the Derby preps so don’t be alarmed by the cross-country shipping. He had a pair of big works before getting on the plane.
Crowded Trade (Chad Brown/Eric Cancel/9-2) is another Brown runner, with this one taking a big step up. He has one start, a straight-maiden score in late January over the Aqueduct surface. Now he goes from a sprint to a mile and from straight-maiden company to a Grade III.
He went five-wide to get the win from off the pace. It’s a Brown runner so never throw out.
Capo Kane (Harold Wyner/Dylan Davis/5-1) comes off a disappointing run in the Withers at Aqueduct, setting the pace for most of the race before drifting out in the lane and finishing third, five lengths off the winner.
It was a bit of regression after coming off two straight wins, including the Jerome on January 1, taking the Derby prep by over 6-lengths. He has shown he loves to be out front early, so barring a major strategy change look for the same here.
Wipe the Slate (Doug O’Neill/Kendrick Carmouche/6-1) comes in from Southern California looking for an easier spot than the tough California prep races.
He had a brutal race in the Lewis at Santa Anita on January 30, breaking out at the start, bumping, and never recovering. He tired throughout the race finishing last, 20 lengths back of the winner.
It was his first start against winners, as well as the first route race. It will be interesting to see if the horse can handle the distance, but he figures to have a much better chance here than had he stayed up and run in the San Felipe.
By Dennis Miller