Mike Repole’s Overanalyze and the undefeated Vyjack headline the field for Saturday’s 60th running of the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack.
A major prep for the April 6 Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby one month later, the Gotham attracted a field of 12.
The winner of the 1 1/16-mile Gotham will be awarded 50 points under the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system, virtually guaranteeing a berth in the starting gate for the May 4 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. The Gotham will be run as race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card at the Big A, which includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap and the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares.
The favorite’s role among Saturday’s Derby hopefuls goes to Overanalyze, a son of Dixie Union for whom Repole paid $380,000 as a yearling. The colt, who will be making his 3-year-old debut as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, had a solid juvenile campaign that included a pair of graded stakes wins in addition to his first-out maiden score at Saratoga Race Course: a rallying 3 ½-length win in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park and a gutsy nose victory over Normandy Invasion in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Remsen on November 24.
Freshened after the Remsen, Overanalyze spent the winter at trainer Todd Pletcher’s base at Palm Meadows in Florida, where he has been training steadily, including his final prep for the Gotham on Monday, a half-mile breeze in 48.75 seconds.
“I think he had an incredible 2-year-old campaign,” said Repole, whose Stay Thirsty won the 2011 Gotham. “Overanalyze’s two graded stakes wins were very, very impressive. He showed courage and a big heart in coming back to win the Remsen, and those are things you can’t measure.
“He’s training really good; Todd told me he’s ready,” added Repole. “He’s definitely moved up from two to three, and we’ll find out Saturday where he is. It’s been four months and we’re excited about getting him here.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, aboard for Overanalyze’s first three races, returns in the irons Saturday as the colt drew post position 8.
Second choice at 3-1 on the morning line is Vyjack, a son of Into Mischief who has won all three of his starts, all at the Big A. Carrying the colors of Dave Wilkenfeld’s Pick Six Racing, Vyjack won both of his 2012 races and returned on January 5 to post a hard-fought head decision over fellow Gotham entrant Siete de Oros in the Grade 2 Jerome, his first effort around two turns.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” said trainer Rudy Rodriguez of Vyjack, who will have a new jockey Saturday in Joel Rosario. “But the competition is going to get tougher, and he’s going to have to keep stepping up.”
Vyjack, who shares top weight of 123 pounds with Overanalyze, drew post position 8.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has entered a trio of promising sophomores in the Gotham: Shadwell Stable’s Elnaami, a four-length maiden winner on January 12 at the Big A, and Darley Stable’s recent maiden winners Transparent and Now and Then, although one may await an allowance race on Sunday.
“What we were thinking about is they all have talent,” said McLaughlin. “They’re all colts who we think can be graded stakes winners. Elnaawi won easily last time out. It’s a big step up, but we think he’s a nice horse. It would be nice to get points and have a chance to run in the Derby. With the other two, we’re not sure what we’re going to do, but, bottom line, they’re all talented colts with a future.”
Elnaawi, first-time Lasix, drew post position 9 with Channing Hill aboard at 8-1 on the morning line. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was named to ride Transparent from post position 5 while Junior Alvarado was named aboard Now and Then, who drew post position 6, with the entry listed 8-1 on the morning line.
Escapefromreality, 6-1 on the morning line, heads a long list of Grade 3 Withers graduates heading to the Gotham. Second by just a neck to the well-regarded Revolutionary, Escapefromreality was followed under the wire in the Withers by Siete de Oros (3rd), a son of HallMarc Stallions’ A.P. Warrior, Amerigo Vespucci (4th), and Champion Boy (5th), all of whom will be returning Saturday.
“I definitely think he’s going to improve,” said owner Anthony J. Bonomo, who campaigns Escapefromreality with his wife, MaryEllen, under the MeB Racing Stables banner. “That was his first time going two turns. It was a shame he got caught at the wire, but since that race he’s just been getting better and better, training-wise.”
David Cohen will ride Escapefromreality from post position 2.
Rounding out the field are Mid-Atlantic shipper Ore Pass, winner of Laurel Park’s Frank Whitely stakes last time out; Sky Captain, most recently second in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, and New York-bred West Hills Giant, the New York Breeders’ Futurity winner who was third in the restricted Java Gold overnight stakes in his sophomore debut.