Gotham Starters Could Target Another Derby Day Stakes

At first glance, Aqueduct Racetrack's $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) seems like an important Kentucky Derby (G1) prep. The winner gets 50 qualifying points, which basically assures that 3-year-old of a spot among 20 starters in the May 4 opening leg of the Triple Crown. In addition, the 25 points for finishing second puts the runner-up in the thick of the chase for a starting berth in the Run for the Roses. Yet, when the one-turn mile distance is taken into consideration, it's hardly a surprise that a different race on Derby Day at Churchill Downs could be on some of the travel itineraries: the $600,000 Pat Day Mile (G2). Brad Cox will send four to the gate that have all exhibited an affinity so far for the shorter distances—a Gotham group that appears imposing with West Coast challenger Slider, trained by John Sadler, being withdrawn from the race. He will be scratched due to a sore foot, co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds tweeted. After beginning his career with Cox's Kentucky string, Bergen was shipped north to New York specifically with these longer one-turn sprints in mind. "I was wanting to stretch out to seven-eighths, one-turn mile but just couldn't get the right race to go," Cox said. "I did like the idea after Churchill of bringing him up to New York and having the options." However, the son of Liam's Map got acquainted with Aqueduct in the six-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes Jan. 27, a race that he drew off to win impressively by 5 1/4 lengths. "It worked out," Cox said, "but I do think this is a horse that will be better going a one-turn mile." Cox also sends out the 5-2 morning line favorite Just a Touch, who made easy work of his competition on debut Jan. 27 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. "It's going to be a big ask for him," Cox said of shipping the young Justify colt north and stretching out from six furlongs. "Fitness-wise we've got him as tight as we can get him. Hopefully that will be enough to show up with a big effort." Lightline has done no wrong in four lifetime starts for Cox, hitting the board each time. Third Feb. 3 in the Withers Stakes (G3), Cox believes a fast pace could help the 'steady' son of City of Light pick up the pieces. Air Cav rounds out the Cox team at odds of 30-1. The son of Mitole was last seen finishing third to Bergen in the Jimmy Winkfield. Other Entrants The field for the Gotham also includes El Grande O, who was second for trainer Linda Rice in the mile-and-an-eighth Withers Stakes (G3) and the Jerome Stakes at a mile, both at the Big A. The son of Take Charge Indy has 15 qualifying points and is 18th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Christophe Clement will send out maiden winners Capital Idea (Classic Empire) and Deterministic (Liam's Map).