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2016 Gotham Stakes day at Aqueduct

horse racing
Shagaf is led to the winner's circle after the Gotham Stakes
Date: 03/05/2016

The $400,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) is the first major New York prep for the Triple Crown, and is worth 50 points to the winner in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Conditions on Long Island were typical for early March, with mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 30's. A field of 7 three-year-olds contested this 1 1/16 mile inner track feature, with Shagaf sent off as the 5-4 favorite, undefeated in 2 starts and making his stakes debut. In to challenge him included 4-1 second choice Sunny Ridge, winner of the Withers (G3) after finishing second in both the Champagne (G1) and Delta Jackpot (G3), and 9-2 third choice Adventist, third in the Withers last out.
horse racing
Shagaf (outside) closes in the stretch.

Jockey Aaron Gryder sent 16-1 Laoban to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.33, 47.16 and 1:11.69 while as many as 2 lengths in front of Shagaf and 5-1 fourth choice Rally Cry. On the far turn, Laoban continued to lead, getting the mile in 1:38.80, but Shagaf, 3 wide into the lane, closed strongly to pass the pacesetter inside the 1/16 pole to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:45.90 over the fast inner track. It was another 3/4 length back to late-running Adventist third.
horse racing

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 2   Shagaf             Ortiz         4.50    3.60  2.90
 1   Laoban             Gryder               10.80  5.10
 3   Adventist          Carmouche                   3.60

Winning Time:  1:45.90

$2 Exacta 2-1                46.60
$2 Trifecta 2-1-3           186.00
$2 Superfecta 2-1-3-7       699.00
Results Chart
Previous winners

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Shagaf in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "I'm very proud of his effort today. Coming into the race it was our plan was to be able to teach him something and possibly still win the race. The horse broke so sharp, Irad told me had to take a hold of him to see what everyone else was going to do. He put him in a good spot. He was little on and off the bridle down the back side catching that dirt for the first time, but once he got in the clear he was much more comfortable getting away from the kickback. The fact he can secure a spot early with his positional speed is going to come in handy later on. He's gaining experience with each start. Irad rode him terrific and it's a real team effort. My crew down in Florida did a fantastic job getting him ready, my crew here in New York received him and handled everything working together great."

Right: Shagaf returns after the race. Brown said he would go next in the Wood Memorial.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Shagaf heads out for the post parade. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "I never thought definitely I had it. It's a stakes race and there are a lot of good horses in here. He did everything right. He was like a professional. When I gave him his cue, he took off. He's a nice horse. Chad is going little by little with him. I think we could see him in the Derby; he's good, we have to see what happens."

Right: The horses break from the gate for the Gotham.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Laoban returns after the race. Trainer Eric Guillot said, "I don't think anybody did anything wrong. We had to go off plan when we drew the rail (and had to be involved earlier). He's a big, 17.1 hands horse and he's a little straight up behind. He never really breaks that sharp. He broke a half-jump slow and Aaron had to quarter-horse him a little bit to get him rolling. He's got tons of ability but this horse, when you ride him, he gets on the muscle and just keeps peddling. The second quarter, I think, cost us the win but that's what you have to do when you have a horse that doesn't break that fast. Otherwise, we probably would've been buried on the rail and wouldn't have hit the board."

Right: Third place finisher Adventist heads out for the post parade. Trainer Leah Gyarmati said, "He ran great. He's definitely learning. Each race has been a new challenge for him and he's stepped forward. He still has a lot to learn.  I think distance is going to help him, and each experience is going to make him a better horse. He makes his run, but he's still young and figuring it out. He's going in the right direction. We'll probably look at the Wood." 

horse racing
Mei Ling leads down the stretch

The $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares also going 1 1/16 miles on the inner track. Cali Star was sent off as the 8-5 favorite off her second place finish in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) over 15-4 second choice House Rules, unraced since 5th in the Beldame (G1) in September, and 4-1 third choice Mei Ling, third in the Maryland Racing Media Stakes at Laurel.

Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Mei Ling loose on the lead through fractions of 24.17, 48.05, and 1:12.82, as many as 4 lengths in front of 9-1 Pangburn in second. At the top of the stretch Mei Ling continued to hold on to a 3 length advantage as 13-2 Saythreehailmary's moved up from 4th to attempt a rally. However Mei Ling easily turned her away, cruising to a 3 1/4 length win in 1:45.07. It was a neck back to Pangburn and late-running 6-1 Include Betty who dead-heated for third, while favorite Cali Star failed to close and finished fifth.
horse racing

Pgm  Horse               Jockey           Win   Place  Show
 2   Mei Ling            Ortiz           9.60    5.10  3.30
 5   Saythreehailmary's  Franco                  6.60  3.60
 1DH Pangburn            Velasquez                     2.80
 4DH Include Betty       Gryder                        2.60

Winning Time:  1:45.07

$2 Exacta 2-5                52.50
$2 Trifecta 2-5-1           124.00
$2 Trifecta 2-5-4           177.50
$2 Superfecta 2-5-1-4       659.00
$2 Superfecta 2-5-4-1       668.00
Results Chart
This was the first running of the Heavenly Prize Invitational.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Mei Ling in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "I think the addition of blinkers made all the difference today. She's a better a filly when she's able to run away and we were able to break good and get the lead along the rail. She's gotten better every time I've ridden her and she showed that today."

Right: Mei Ling comes over from the barns before the race. Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher said, "It worked out on the lead. Jose rode her last time in Maryland and we thought we were doing a good job by holding her and walking the dog on the front end, but Jose said he had figured her out. You've got to let her do her thing. She's got a high cruising speed and that worked out today."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Saythreehailmary's heads out for the post parade. The John Morrison trainee improved her record to 6 wins, 7 seconds, and 4 thirds in 24 starts, earning $487,600 for owner-breeder Very Un Stable.

Right: Third place finisher (dead heat) Pangburn returns after the race. The Tony Dutrow trainee improved her record to 4 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 14 starts, earning $309,121 for owner Shortleaf Stable.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Third place finisher (dead heat) Include Betty returns after the race. The Tom Proctor trainee improved her record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 3 thirds in 15 starts, earning $752,280 for owner-breeder Brereton C. Jones and Tim Thornton.

Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Cali Star in the post parade. The Martin Wolfson trainee has a record of 4 wins, 6 seconds, and 3 thirds in 20 starts, earning $299,580 for owners Ben Walden Jr. and Larry Taylor.

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