The New York-bred Samraat remained undefeated after winning Saturday’s $500,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY. Even though he carried the high weight of 123 pounds, the Rick Violette runner proved that he was much the best as the favorite in the field of nine. The win earned him 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system which, combined with the 10 he picked up for his win in the Withers Stakes (G3) Feb. 1, puts Samraat atop the leaderboard with 60 points.
Unlike his previous four wins, Samraat was not able to get the lead early, but was content to sit third while Uncle Sigh and In Trouble battled it out on the front-end. The rest of the field plotted along behind for much of the 1 1/16 mile race. At the top of the stretch, going three-wide on the outside, Samraat moved in on the leaders. The trio battled on into the stretch with In Trouble on the rail and Uncle Sigh never easing up while getting squeezed in the middle. As the three hit the wire, they were beautifully placed necks apart with Samraat on top, Uncle Sigh second, and In Trouble third. Financial Mogul was 5 ¼ lengths back in fourth, a neck in front of Harpoon.
The tight finish of the top three and possible brushing between them drew a Steward’s inquiry just after the finish, but after a brief review, the order was unchanged.
"As soon as we got to the first turn I was third behind the two leaders, and that's where I wanted to be," said Samraat’s jockey, Jose Ortiz. "He responded very good. In the stretch when I showed him the whip a little bit, he was lugging in, but he never made contact with other horses. I just hand rode him and he responded very good, and I tried to keep him straight."
Uncle Sigh, who finished a length behind Samraat in the Withers Stakes, showed heart to keep his position in the cramped quarters down the stretch to finish only a neck behind the winner. The Gary Contessa trainee picked up 20 points for the win and now sits tied with Albano in fourth position on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
"Samraat is a nice horse. Now I'm a believer," said Contessa. "We closed the gap on him a little bit today, and my horse is still very young. He was intimidated and he got bumped, and he might have been a little bit cautious down in there, but we're getting better. He's certainly developing."
Samraat and Uncle Sigh were said to be in good order after the race with both planning to return to Aqueduct for the 1 1/8 mile Wood Memorial (G1) April 5.
It was a game finish for third-place finisher In Trouble, who made his first start of the year after winning the Futurity (G2) last September. The Rick Dutrow trainee is also likely to return for the Wood Memorial.
"You can't be too disappointed when they run like that," said Dutrow. "Right now my mind is on the Wood Memorial. He still has questions to answer and I'm going to look at [the Wood]."
Samraat returned $6.40, $3.90, and $2.40. Uncle Sigh paid $4.20 and $3.00 and completed the $2 exacta for $24.60. In Trouble paid $3.70 and completed the $2 trifecta for $79.00. The final time for the 1 1/16 mile race over the fast inner dirt was 1:44.44.
Photo: Courtesy of NYRA.com/Adam Coglianese/Chelsea Durand