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2014 Gotham Stakes day at Aqueduct

horse racing
Samraat returns after the Gotham Stakes
Date: 03/01/2014

The $500,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) is the first major New York prep for the Triple Crown, and is worth 50 points to the winner in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Conditions on Long Island were chilly, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 30's. A field of 9 three-year-olds (8 betting interests) contested this 1 1/16 mile inner track feature, before just 5763 fans at the Ozone Park oval. As expected, the two-horse My Meadowview Farm entry of Noble Cornerstone, 7th in the Sam F. Davis (G3), and undefeated Samraat, winner of the Damon Runyon and the Withers (G3), was sent off as the 3-1 choice. In to challenge them included 7-2 second choice Uncle Sigh, runner-up in the Withers, and 4-1 third choice Harpoon, runner-up in the Sam F. Davis.
horse racing
Shortly after the start with In Trouble leading over Uncle Sigh and Saamrat on the far outside

Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. sent 9-2 fourth choice In Trouble to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.85, 48.30, and 1:12.30 over the fast inner track while pressed by Uncle Sigh to his outside and stalked by Samraat three-wide around both turns. Entering the stretch, the pacesetters closed the gap to within 1/2 a length of each other, setting up a 3 horse sprint to the line, with In Trouble on the rail and Samraat on the outside with Uncle Sigh in tight between them. In the final strides Samraat pushed his neck in front to get the win over Uncle Sigh in 1:44.44. It was another neck back to In Trouble third, and a long 5 1/4 lengths back to the rest of the field.
horse racing
Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 1A  Samraat            Ortiz         6.40    3.90  2.40
 4   Uncle Sigh         Nakatani              4.20  3.00
 2   In Trouble         Rocco Jr.                   3.70

Winning Time:  1:44.44

$2 Exacta 1-4                24.60
$2 Trifecta 1-4-2            79.00
Results Chart
Previous winners

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Samraat in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Rick Violette said, "We knew he had a shot to be a real horse after the Withers; he proved he is a real horse today. It was a deep field of horses. I'd be lying if I said we weren't already thinking (about the Kentucky Derby). At this stage, we didn't want to do anything that would prevent us from going to the Derby. A couple of races before the Derby probably toughens him, but this was another stretch-long, hard duel, but Jose never hit him. He's an honest racehorse and there might be a little left. Today, he graduated big time. His last race was a terrific race and this was a notch above that. He leaves for Florida tomorrow. The Wood is a real possibility. That would be our best option as long as the horse cooperates and tells us that we should get on a plane and come up for it.

Right: Samraat heads back to the barn after the race. Winning owner Leonard Riggio said, "We thought he might need a little more time after the Withers. The horse bounced back pretty quick. He's a magnificent horse, and that was some race."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Samraat out for the post parade.

Right: Samraat returns after the race. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "He has a lot of heart, he's a nice horse. We had a good trip, broke from the 8 post. As soon as we got to the first turn I was third behind the two leaders, and that's where I wanted to be. 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. He runs good when he's in the front, but I rated him the last two times and he responded and passed horses and kept running. That's a nice horse. I think he's going to handle (additional distance) very good."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Uncle Sigh in the paddock. Trainer Gary Contessa said, "Samraat is a nice horse, now I'm a believer. 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." Jockey Corey Nakatani added, "These young colts, he was trying to run, but he had no room to stride. He's getting a lot of experience out of this. I thought he ran a great race. I thought they'd go a little bit quicker."

Right: Third place finisher In Trouble in the post parade. Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. said, "Coming off a layoff we were concerned he might need a race, but he ran very game. Very game. He really dug in well and we're looking forward to see what he can do next time. (Trainer Tony Dutrow) thinks we're going to move forward with him, to the Wood."

horse racing
Teen Pauline leads down the stretch in the Top Flight Handicap
Immediately before the Gotham was the $200,000 Top Flight Handicap (G2) for older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the inner track. Teen Pauline was sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of 5 off wins in the Affectionately Stakes and the Ladies Handicap, both at Aqueduct. In to challenge her included 6-1 second choice Royal Lahaina, last year's Go For Wand (G2) winner but third in the Ladies Handicap last out, and 13-2 third choice Centring, third in the Ladies Handicap.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Teen Pauline to a 1 1/2 length lead first time by and she set easy fractions of 25.11, 49.45, and 1:13.90 while stalked by 7-1 Flores Island. Entering the stretch, Teen Pauline opened up a 2 length lead, getting the mile in 1:38.62. Centring, last early, put in a 4 wide rally but Teen Pauline easily held her off by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:45.04. It was just a nose back to 12-1 Flash Forward third.
horse racing
Pgm  Horse               Jockey        Win   Place  Show
 2   Teen Pauline        Ortiz Jr.    2.70    2.10  2.10
 3   Centring            Maragh               3.60  2.60
 1   Flash Forward       Velasquez                  3.40

Winning Time:  1:45.04

$2 Exacta 3-2                 8.30
$2 Trifecta 3-2-1            23.80
Results Chart
Previous winners

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Teen Pauline in the winner's circle. Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "She didn't break as sharp, but once she got the lead, her ears perked up, she took a strong hold of Irad, and I thought we were safe."

Right: Teen Pauline returns after the race.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Teen Pauline heads to the paddock before the race.

Right: Teen Pauline in the post parade. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "She broke a little slow today; she usually breaks in front. But she was keen and got the lead easy. I never sent her. I know she has speed and she was in front all the way easily. When I asked her, she took off."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Centring returns after the race. Jockey Rajiv Maragh said, "The speed kind of got loose out there. She has a distinct style of running from off the pace and it didn't set up well for her. She still managed to run great for second."

Right: Third place finisher Flash Forward in the post parade. The 12-1 longest shot raced in third early under jockey Cornelio Velasquez but could not improve late, finishing third beaten 2 1/2 lengths. The Domenick Schettino trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 15 starts, earning $245,290 for owners MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables.

horse racing The charge down the stretch with Strapping Groom on the outside

Kicking off the stakes action on Saturday, a field of 7 older horses sprinted 6 furlongs in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G3). Strapping Groom was sent off as the 6-5 favorite off his win in the Gravesend Handicap. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Dads Caps, second in the Spooky Mulder and the Toboggan Stakes (G3), and 7-2 third choice Candyman E, winner of the Toboggan.

Jockey Cornelio Velasquez sent Dads Caps to the lead down the backstretch through fractions of 22.56 and 45.23 while stalked by 38-1 longest shot Jack N Elwood. Entering the stretch, Dads Caps continued to lead through 5/8 in 57.09, but Strapping Groom, third early, came out for room, taking over at the 70 yards pole and pulled away for the 1 length win in 1:09.85. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to 6-1 Saturday's Charm third.
horse racing
Pgm  Horse               Jockey           Win   Place  Show
 1   Strapping Groom     I. Ortiz Jr.    4.30    2.70  2.40
 4   Dads Caps           Velasquez               3.80  2.90
 3   Saturday's Charm    J. Ortiz                      3.70

Winning Time:  1:09.85

$2 Exacta 1-4                15.20
$2 Trifecta 1-4-3            67.50
$2 Superfecta 1-4-3-7       467.50
Results Chart
Previous winners

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Strapping Groom in the winner's circle. Winning trainer David Jacobsen said, "We thought we'd be closer to the pace. Being down on the inside we wanted to get out of there, but the way he ran from off the pace today is another dimension he has. With the training schedules we've had because of the severe winter, he wasn't the fittest horse today, but when I saw the fractions I said, 'We might have a shot.' This was all going through my mind in a split second. He's a good horse, and he's one of the better sprinters on the East Coast, if not in the country right now, in my opinion. The obvious is the Carter. That's on the top of the list. Anything is possible. He'll tell us how he's doing and he'll let us know what he wants to do."

Right: Strapping Groom returns after the race.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Strapping Groom in the post parade.

Right: Strapping Groom heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He came out of the gate a little slow and David told me to put him in the race. When I got clear in the stretch, he took off. He was ready today; David did a great job with him."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Dads Caps returns after the race. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said, "One of these days, we'll get them. We were happy with the way he ran. I was hoping the outside horse would clear us and go to the lead, but then we got to the inside and got pressured. He ran a big race. Strapping Groom is a very nice horse." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez added, "My horse ran good. A 40-1 horse (Jake N Elwood) challenged me but I had to go to the lead; I didn't have a choice. My horse ran big."

Right: Third place finisher Saturday's Charm in the post parade. The 6-1 fourth choice raced fourth early under Jose Ortiz, then closed to get third beaten 2 3/4 lengths. The Steve Asmussen trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 5 seconds, and 5 thirds in 18 starts, earning $335,050 for owner Mike McCarty.

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