With the big day approaching, the pace of preparation races for the young three years old accelerates and we have two today, including the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
These prep races are crucial to follow if you plan on betting on the Kentucky Derby, reason being that the manner or winning a race is just as important as the win itself when it comes to horse racing handicapping.
The Gotham Stakes is a major prop race, but it is important to note that it is run on a relatively short distance of 1 mile. The horses who do well here, especially if they have some early speed, will have to still prove that they can go the longer distance of the Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown races.
A better profile to look for in today’s race would be a horse who manages to stay close to the pace, if it is pretty quick, and still can close fast in the stretch. That shows signs of endurance which is paramount on the first Saturday in May.
With multiple horses with early speed, pace handicapping would tell us to look for a fast closing horse today. But the Aqueduct track has a pretty strong bias towards early speed recently, so we are facing some tough decisions.
Without further ado, let’s dig into the profiles of each of the horses entered to run in this 2019 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Analysis and picks for the 10th race at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 9 2019:
Number 1, FAMILY BIZ has not won a race yet in 2019 and it is not because he was racing against the best. His trainer is having a good week but on paper, FAMILY BIZ is pretty much outclassed. He has been beaten by multiple of today’s opponent last month and I don’t see why he would turn the tables today.
Number 2 KNICKS GO did surprisingly well in the fall of his two years old campaign, showing good speed. He closed his year with a very disappointing performance, but he was running in the mud for the first time and facing a lot of pace pressure. Maybe we can forget that race. KNICK GO came back to the track last month and disappointed again though. In his second race of the year, we can probably expect an improvement, but KNICKS GO is likely to be pinned to the rail which is not a good position to be at Aqueduct recently. It is not impossible for KNICKS GO but it seems unlikely and there are better choices in the race.
Number 3, MIND CONTROL is another speedy horse who disappointed in the closing of last year, but he came back with a win in January on this very Aqueduct racetrack. He has been rested since, but his steady regimen of workouts is pretty encouraging. If MIND CONTROL can start quickly and get settled in the right path outside, he could go all the way at pretty interesting odds. One of the best jockeys in the country is aboard and he is crushing it of late so we can give MIND CONTROL some credit here.
Number 4, MUCH BETTER is likely to put a lot of pace pressure on the opposition considering that he is mostly a sprint horse. He has raced a few times on the mile, including on turf, but disappointed on the distance. MUCH BETTER has a strong string of workouts, a hall of fame trainer, and a hall of fame jockey. His Speed figures have been pretty soft so far though and the distance will be a challenge. MUCH BETTER might make life difficult for the other speed horses but I don’t rate his chances as great to cross the finish line first.
Number 5 HAIKAL is a pace handicapper’s dream but the Aqueduct racetrack might not do him any favors. HAIKAL is basically the only closer in the field and would benefit from the likely hot pace at any other racetrack. Aqueduct is very speed favoring so coming back in the stretch is tough. HAIKAL has done it a few times at Aqueduct however and at shorter distances to boot. HAIKAL is trained by a red hot trainer who trusts this jockey a lot so there are some very good signs. Due to the Aqueduct track bias and against a stronger field today, winning might be difficult but I expect HAIKAL to be on the podium at least.
Number 6, INSTAGRAND is in fashion with the track handicapper but there are some serious dark spots. First of all, INSTAGRAND has not raced since August 2018. He destroyed his first two races and then went on an very extended vacation. It does not make sense unless he had some serious physical ailments… INSTAGRAND has been training since of course and the recent workouts are pretty good. Still, INSTAGRAND was obviously hurt, has never faced any pace pressure and has never run a route race. That’s a lot of potential issues… INSTAGRAND is the morning line odds favorite and I think that there is a lot of value in excluding him from the picks.
Number 7, NOT THAT BRADY needed a few tries to break his maiden but since he did, he has been running well, always right here on the Aqueduct racetrack. He lost his last race but it was a courageous effort and he did not necessarily have the best trip either. NOT THAT BRADY works for an in-form trainer and shows good workouts since the last race so there are encouraging signs. Proven on the distance, able to dictate the pace and starting from an outside position on a track that favors it, all signals are green for NOT THAT BRADY and he is a great pick at interesting odds.
Number 8 TIKHVIN FLEW has shown an ability to stay close to the pace and stick around at the finish line. Today, there is likely going to be a few speed horses collapsing so that racing style might pay off. TIKHVIN FLEW needs to improve quite a bit to have a chance today however and his only two races where not great performances on the Beyer Speed Figures scale. I think it is a tough test for TIKHVIN FLEW but a place on the superfecta is definitely possible.
This the kind of races that I like: a questionable morning line odds favorite against proven winners with strong credentials. These are the races with value.
In today’s Gotham Stakes, I will be going with the track bias and put an outside horse with early speed on top. NOT THAT BRADY is proven here at Aqueduct and on the distance and has the right pace profile and post position to take advantage of the Aqueduct track bias.
On a “normal” track, today would be a day for fast closing horses. There is so much early speed that a closer would be able to overtake all the tiring horses in the stretch. HAIKAL fits this profile perfectly. The track bias is strong at Aqueduct though so it might be tough to best them all but I expect that he will claim a place on the podium at least.
Similarly, TIKVHIN FLEW has a chance to overtake many horses in the stretch but I don’t like his profile as much. He might be able to spice up the superfecta though.
MIND CONTROL is another contender for the win, based on his early speed. He starts from a worse post position however so a lot rests on his star jockey’s ability to angle out, which might not be possible…
2019 GOTHAM STAKES BETTING PICKS:
WIN BET at 7-2 or more on Number 7 NOT THAT BRADY
EXACTA BOX 7-5
EXACTA BOX 3-5
EXACTA BOX 7-3
TRIFECTA BOX 7-5-3
SUPERFECTA BOX 7-5-3-8