July 18, 2024

Highly Motivated tops eight in Gotham; The Grass Is Blue meets five in Busher

Highly Motivated
Highly Motivated wins the Nyquist Stakes (Coady Photography)

Gotham S. (G3) – Race 9 (5:07 p.m. ET)

A smashing winner of the Nyquist S. on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard, Highly Motivated will seek to join the Kentucky Derby trail when opening his three-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct.

The Chad Brown-trained colt tops a field of eight, and the one-turn mile qualifier will award 85 points (50-20-10-5 scale) as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Highly Motivated broke his maiden the second time out at Belmont Park in late September, and the Into Mischief colt registered a field-best 102 Brisnet Speed rating when capturing the 6 1/2-furlong Nyquist from just off the pace. The stalker retains the services of Javier Castellano.

Freedom Fighter invades for Bob Baffert following a half-length second to well-regarded stablemate Concert Tour in the Feb. 6 San Vicente S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The front-running son of Violence shows fast series of workouts in preparation, and Manny Franco picks up the mount.

Wipe the Slate, a sharp maiden winner sprinting at Santa Anita, will turn back to a one-turn trip following a last in the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis S. (G3). Kendrick Carmouche will guide for Doug O’Neill. Capo Kane, a wire-to-wire winner of the mile Jerome S. and third most recently in the 1 1/8-mile Withers S. (G3) at Aqueduct, also figures to appreciate the cutback in distance. Dylan Davis rides the California-bred colt.

Crowded Trade, who graduated at first asking over the track as the even-money favorite on Jan. 28, will try stakes foes for Brown. He’ll be joined by last-out maiden winners Atlantic Road, The Reds, and Weyburn.

Busher Invitational S. – Race 6 (3:29 p.m.)

After a one-length decision in the Jan. 24 Busher S., The Grass Is Blue will seek her second consecutive Kentucky Oaks qualifier at Aqueduct in the $250,000 Busher Invitational S. The Brown-trained Broken Vow filly will face five rivals over a mile distance with Franco.

Stablemate Search Results merits respect following a four-length debut maiden win at Gulfstream on Jan. 3. Castellano takes over the reins. Miss Brazil enters on the upswing for Tony Dutrow, romping wire-to-wire by 6 1/4 lengths in the Feb. 6 Ruthless S. at Aqueduct. Eric Cancel rides the expected pacesetter.

Mo Desserts can’t be dismissed after scoring by 15 lengths over maiden special weight opponents at Aqueduct on Feb. 8. New York-bred stakes winners Laobanonaprayer and Make Mischief complete the field.