The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes its next stop at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY for the 60th running of the Grade 3 $400,000 Gotham Stakes. A field of 12 three-year-olds will compete in the 1 1/16 mile route over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track. In addition to purse money, the winner of the race will receive 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system, which should guarantee him a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
The new Kentucky Derby points system replaces the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner for Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concluded two weeks ago, the top four finishers in 19 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. The first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, which started last week, awards the top four finishers in the seven pre-determined races points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. The second leg of phase two begins Mar. 30 and includes two Grade II and five Grade I events in which the top four finishers in these pre-determined races will receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The series concludes with two wild card races in which the top four finishers will be awarded 20-8-4-2 points, respectively.
As was seen when Ive Struck A Nerve won the Risen Star Stakes and Orb won the Fountain of Youth stakes last week, 50 points can put a newcomer immediately atop the leaderboard. Saturday’s Gotham offers the same opportunity to another set of newcomers.
Headlining Saturday’s race, at morning line odds of 5-2, is Todd Pletcher’s Overanalyze who will be making his three-year-old debut. This Dixie Union colt already has two Grade 2 wins under his belt in four stakes attempts. In his last start, he kept a nose in front of Normandy Invasion to win the Remsen Stakes Nov. 24, earning a Brisnet speed figure of 104 for the effort. Normandy Invasion made his return in last week’s Risen Star, finishing fifth. If Overanalyze can return to the form he showed last fall, he should be an easy winner Saturday.
The biggest threat to Overanalyze will likely come from Rudy Rodriguez’s undefeated Grade 2 Jerome winner, Vyjack. Although he hasn’t raced in eight weeks, he’s been training well over Aqueduct’s inner dirt and has a win over this track. One advantage Vyjack has over Overanalyze is post position. Vyjack will break from post 8 and Overanalyze will be on the far outside at post 12. Both colts prefer to be on the lead, but Overanalyze will have to exhaust some energy to get there. Vyjack has one triple-digit Brisnet speed figure on his resume, but will need to continue to progress in order to win. If he’s anything like his trainer, who worked his way up from farmhand to a stakes-winning trainer, he’ll get there—if not Saturday, another day.
Escapefromreality has shown progression in his three lifetime starts. Trainer Dominick Schettino narrowly missed winning the Grade 3 Withers Feb. 2 with this gelded son of Read the Footnotes. Had winner Revolutionary not been able to split horses and get up in time, Escapefromreality would have won the Withers instead of losing it by a neck. It was the second loss by a neck for Escapefromreality which makes one wonder if he has the heart to win.
Siete de Oros is the live longshot in this field. He was beaten 1 ¾ lengths by Revolutionary and Escapefromreality in his last start, the Withers Stakes. He went into that race having come off a loss by a head to Vyjack in the Jerome Stakes. Siete de Oros will likely be on or close to the pace, so he won’t let the leaders get away from him. At odds of 15-1, don't overlook this one.
The field, from the rail out, is Kiaran McLaughlin’s co-entry Transparent and Now And Then, Juan Guerrero’s Champion Boy, Escapefromreality, Mike Trombetta’s Ore Pass, Tim Tullock’s Amerigo Vespucci, Siete de Oros, Vyjack, Kiaran McLaughlin’s Elnaawi, Mark Casse’s Sky Captain, John Terranova’s West Hills Giant, and Overanalyze.
The race is the 10th on Aqueduct’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 5:02 p.m. It can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Once again, Brisnet is providing free PPs  for this Road to the Kentucky Derby race.
Photo: Courtesy Aqueduct Racetrack/Adam Coglianese