Led by the undefeated Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Ocean Knight, a potential field of eight talented 3-year-olds is shaping up for the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham on March 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack, the local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Twinspires.com Wood Memorial on April 4.
The Gotham, which will be joined on Saturday by the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap and $100,000 Cat Cay, will offer the winner 50 qualifying points as part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" system. Additionally, the runner-up will receive 20 points, with 10 points to third and five points to fourth. The previous round of preps, including the Grade 3 Withers at the Big A, was worth 10-5-2-1 points to the top four finishers.
Ocean Knight, undefeated through two career starts, has already had success over Aqueduct's inner track, having won his debut over the surface by an effortless 4 ¼ lengths. The son of Curlin tested graded stakes company in his very next start in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and responded well to the challenge, earning a hard-fought neck victory after a wide trip.
"He worked very well [on Saturday morning]; 49 and change, just what we were looking for," said McLaughlin, who trains Ocean Knight for Stonestreet Stables. "He ran very well at Tampa, but [Stonestreet] has Carpe Diem to potentially run in the Tampa Bay Derby, and they'd prefer to split them up. We get to run out of our own barn and he already has a win at Aqueduct, so it's an easy decision. We're happy."
McLaughlin is also likely to saddle Classy Class, who finished third in the Withers. Owned by Cheyenne Stables, Classy Class also has a maiden win and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Remsen to his credit.
"We thought Classy Class ran very well in the Withers," said McLaughlin. "El Kabeir challenged him a lot earlier than we were expecting, and he ran on well. [In the Gotham], we'd prefer to see him come from off the pace; he doesn't need to be on the lead."
Owner Mike Repole is likely to send out an entry of Blame Jim and Dontbetwithbruno. The former most recently finished second in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, while the latter broke his maiden last out on February 1 at the Big A.
Others likely for the Gotham include Withers runner-up El Kabeir, Combat Diver, Lieutenant Colonel and Tencendur.
The 40th running of the six-furlong Tom Fool is likely to feature Dads Caps, who finished second last out in the Grade 3 Toboggan on February 7 for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Vincent Scuderi.
Also expected are Maleeh, for Shadwell Stable and McLaughlin, the John Terranova-trained West Hills Giant, Schivarelli, and Sonny Inspired.
The second edition of the Cat Cay, which was won by Princess of Sylmar last year in its inaugural running, is likely to be headed by Holiday's Jewel, who is trained by Mitchell Friedman for Sunny Meadow Farm. The Ladies' Handicap winner is slated to meet six other older fillies and mares, including Storied Lady, winner of the Bay Ridge Stakes at Aqueduct in December 2014. Evening Show for trainer Steve Klesaris, Fortune Pearl, Lunar Surge, Mylitta, and Shayjolie are also probable.
Source: NYRA Communications