Overanalyze drawn wide in Gotham
The opposition is led by Vyjack, who enters the Gotham undefeated from three starts. A debut winner over the Big A's main track in November, the Rudy Rodriguez trainee later claimed the December 9 Traskwood by 5 3/4 lengths, and then fought back in the stretch to deny the returning Siete de Oros by a head in the Grade 2 Jerome in early January.
Vyjack passed on the next local classic prep, the Grade 3 Withers on February 2, where Siete de Oros tired to third after setting the pace. Falling a head short of the Withers winner's circle was Escapefromreality, a Read the Footnotes gelding who was making his open company and stakes debut. Withers also-rans Amerigo Vespucci and the maiden Champion Boy are also in the Gotham lineup.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle three in the Gotham, all of whom are late-developing colts exiting maiden victories. The Darley-owned entry of Transparent and Now and Then are by superstar stallions Bernardini and Tiznow, respectively, while the Shadwell-owned Elnaawi is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.
"What we were thinking about is they all have talent," McLaughlin said. "They're all colts who we think can be graded stakes winners. Elnaawi won easily last time out. It's a big step up, but we think he's a nice horse. It would be nice to get points and have a chance to run in the Derby. With the other two, we're not sure what we're going to do, but, bottom line, they're all talented colts with a future."
Others who might garner some attention are Ore Pass, a California-bred colt who took the seven-furlong Frank Whiteley Jr. at Laurel last time, and Sky Captain, a solid allowance runner-up at Gulfstream going nine furlongs in his most recent outing.
Others of note are Twice the Lady, winner of the January 26 Affectionately; Withgreatpleasure, the Affectionately runner-up who was a last-out third in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap; and Royal Lahaina, a 6 1/2-length winner against optional claimers in her debut for trainer Rudy Rodriguez February 15.
Grade 1 veteran Comma to the Top was somewhat of a surprise entrant in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap, a six-furlong dash that attracted a field of 10. Should he start, the California-based gelding would be coming back one week after finishing a close third in the Grade 2 San Carlos after dueling on the front end.
"I can't remember ever (running a horse in a pair of graded stakes within a week)," trainer Peter Miller said. "It's unorthodox, but he's a unique horse. The owner asked me how (the horse) was doing (after the San Carlos), and he was eating well and his energy level was good. (The owner) then asked if there was any reason for us to not go (to the Tom Fool), and I said there wasn't. He's not your average horse, and there aren't a lot of big races for sprinters."
A Californian that has already been based in New York for more than a week is the Bob Baffert-trained Smash, a Grade 2-placed five-year-old who was fifth in the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood on December 2 following an 11-month layoff.
Others expected to attract significant play are the top two finishers from the Grade 3 Toboggan, Head Heart Hoof and Johannesburg Smile, and Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint upsetter Off the Jak.
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