May 19, 2024

Instagrand to test mettle in eight-horse Gotham

Instagrand established himself as a towering presence in the two-year-old division before heading to the sidelines in September © BENOIT PHOTO

Instagrand provided a boost to Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) when connections announced plans to ship the exciting colt to Aqueduct. Based in Southern California with Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Instagrand created a buzz when opening his career with a pair of smashing wins but hasn’t been seen under silks since a 10-length romp in the Best Pal (G2) last August.

Owner Larry Best, who paid $1.2 million for the son of Into Mischief at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March two-year-old sale, decided to put the sprint standout away for the rest of the year after the Best Pal and Instagrand has logged 10 works since late December in advance of his much-anticipated return. The bay sophomore was so far ahead of the competition last summer, registering an outstanding 100 BRIS Speed rating in the Best Pal, and may be able to carry his form forward in the Gotham at a one-turn mile.

Javier Castellano picks up the mount and Instagrand appears well-drawn in post 6 among eight runners.

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Gotham will award a total of 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5 scale).

Mind Control won the first qualifier of the New Year at Aqueduct, posting a 1 1/2-length triumph in the Jerome, and has been freshened 67 days in advance of this assignment. We know he favors one-turn distances, winning the seven-furlong Hopeful (G1) last summer and finishing up the track in his lone two-turn attempt, and the Greg Sacco trainee will retain the services of John Velazquez.

Not That Brady can provide a gauge on the quality of the February 2 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct. A convincing wire-to-wire winner of the Damon Runyon for state-breds two back, the Big Brown gelding stepped up to face open rivals last time and re-rallied after being passed in upper stretch to be a head second to Tax. Reylu Gutierrez will be back up for Rudy Rodriguez.

Knicks Go has some back class, winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he must rebound following a pair of unplaced efforts in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Sam F. Davis (G3). Ben Colebrook adds a new rider in Jose Lezcano.

Much Better will invade from the West Coast for Bob Baffert after convincing allowance tally at 6 1/2 furlongs. The son of Pioneerof the Nile coughed up a clear lead in the Sham (G3) two back but that came at a two-turn mile distance. He prefers shorter distances and the presence of Mike Smith doesn’t hurt.

Haikal will try a Kentucky Derby qualifier after winning the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct on February 9. Tikhvin Flew and Family Biz, second and fourth in the Jimmy Winkfield, are also part of the line-up.