A pair of qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), the $300,000 Gotham (G3) and $250,000 Busher, will be offered at Aqueduct on Saturday. Both one-turn mile races will award points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.
Gotham (G3) – Race 10 (5:27 p.m. ET)
Unbeaten Dean’s List, who will ship in to make his stakes debut, and Jimmy Winkfield S. romper Morello lead a contentious 10-horse field in the Gotham.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Dean’s List rolled to a 5 1/2-length tally on the front end when making his career debut in mid-December. He came back to score wire-to-wire in a salty allowance on Jan. 8, as runner-up Dean Delivers came back to finish a half-length second in the Swale (G3) and third-placer In Due Time recorded a sharp allowance win next out, and both vanquished foes are entered in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The one-turn distance appears to be a good fit for Dean’s List, who has raced exclusively at six furlongs, and Manny Franco picks up the mount on the Speightstown colt.
Morello has logged a pair of convincing wins at Aqueduct, opening his career with a 4 1/4-length maiden victory in late November and posting a five-length decision as the favorite in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on Feb. 6. Steve Asmussen trains the promising Classic Empire colt, and Jose Lezcano retains the assignment.
Rockefeller, a convincing winner of the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct over a mile in early November, will return to the Big A for Bob Baffert. Last seen finishing a well-beaten second in the two-turn Sham S. (G3) on New Year’s Day, the Medaglia d’Oro colt is eligible to appreciate the cutback in distance, but Rockefeller won’t be eligible to earn points toward a Kentucky Derby berth. Trevor McCarthy rides.
Other runners include Glider, runner-up to possible Fountain of Youth favorite Emmanuel in a Jan. 30 allowance at Tampa Bay Downs; Bold Journey, second as the odds-on favorite in the Feb. 12 Gander S. for New York-breds; and last-out maiden winners Fromanothamutha and Golden Code.
Busher S. – Race 9 (4:57 p.m. ET)
Busanda S. winner Magic Circle and Demoiselle (G2) runner-up Venti Valentine are top contenders in the Busanda, which will feature six runners.
Third after setting the pace in the Demoiselle, Magic Circle dominated the Jan. 23 Busanda on the lead, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles. The Kantharos filly will cut back in distance for Rudy Rodriguez, and Kendrick Carmouche takes over the reins.
A winner over state-breds in her first two starts at Belmont Park, Venti Valentine stepped up to face open rivals in the Demoiselle and rallied from just off the pace to finish a neck second to Nest. That opponent came back to win Feb. 12 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs by a six-length margin, and Venti Valentine is eligible to run well in her three-year-old opener for Jorge Abreu and Franco.
Radio Days will invade from Gulfstream following a fast-closing second in the Feb. 5 Forward Gal (G3), and Dylan Davis guides for Shug McGaughey. Shotgun Hottie, winner of the Feb. 6 Ruthless S. at Aqueduct, and unbeaten New York-bred stakes winner Sterling Silver are also entered.
I was planning to wager on the Gotham Stakes, but since Rockefeller may run I probably won’t be wagering.