Re­match in Gotham

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – David Gren­ing – Steve An­der­sen

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Sha­gaf and Rally Cry were both 4-5 when they met in a $38,000, first-level al­lowance race at Gulf­stream Park on Jan. 29. While Sha­gaf won the race by two lengths, trip hand­i­cap­pers fig­ure to be all over Rally Cry when the two meet again in Satur­day’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Sha­gaf and Rally Cry were two of eight 3-year-olds en­tered Wed­nes­day for the Gotham, a 1 1/16-mile race that of­fers the win­ner a vir­tual guar­an­teed spot in the start­ing gate for the Ken­tucky Derby on May 7. The Gotham awards 85 qual­i­fy­ing points to the Derby to its top four fin­ish­ers on a 50-20-10-5 ba­sis. As nei­ther Sha­gaf nor Rally Cry has run in a stakes race, this will be their first chance to earn points.

In that Jan. 29 race at Gulf­stream, Sha­gaf – the ac­tual bet­ting fa­vorite – ben­e­fit­ted from a clean trip from his out­side post and beat South­side War­rior by two lengths. Mean­while, Rally Cry was squeezed slightly at the start, then got back into the race along the in­side. Go­ing into the far turn, as Sha­gaf was as­sum­ing the lead, Rally Cry had to steady sharply un­der Javier Castel­lano. He went from se­cond to sixth.

Around the turn and ap­proach­ing the top of the stretch, Castel­lano got Rally Cry wide and into the clear. Though he made a bid, Rally Cry ap­peared to tire, lug­ging in dur­ing deep stretch and switch­ing to his in­cor­rect lead. He fin­ished third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.

A month be­fore that race, Rally Cry won a one-mile maiden race at Gulf­stream, earn­ing a Beyer Speed Fig­ure of 80.

“He’s a horse that trains very im­pres­sively, al­ways has and con­tin­ues to do so,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Rally Cry for Paul Pompa Jr. “Even in his win, we haven’t quite seen the same type of per­for­mance we’ve seen in his breezes.”

Pletcher said he be­lieves two turns “is what he’s been look- ing for.”

Post po­si­tions will be re­versed for Sha­gaf and Rally Cry in the Gotham. Sha­gaf will break from post 2, while Rally Cry will break from the out­side post.

Pletcher also en­tered Mo Power, a son of Un­cle Mo owned by Mike Re­pole. Mo Power won a maiden race at Gulf­stream Park on Jan. 30, get­ting a smooth out­side stalk­ing trip un­der John Ve­lazquez, who is named to ride Mo Power here Satur­day. Pletcher said he will talk with Re­pole about pos­si­bly en­ter­ing Mo Power back in a first-level al­lowance race sched­uled for Sun­day at Aqueduct.

That race is ex­pected to at­tract Matt King Coal and My Man Sam, who were both held out of the Gotham, which will go as race 9 of 10 on Satur­day’s card.

The Gotham field, from the rail out, is: Laoban ( Aaron Gry­der), Sha­gaf (Irad Or­tiz Jr.), Ad­ven­tist (Ken­drick Car­mouche), Vin­cento ( An­gel Ar­royo), Mo Power (John Ve­lazquez), Con­quest Big E (Jose Or­tiz), Sunny Ridge (Manny Franco), and Rally Cry (Ju­nior Al­varado).

In­clude Betty, a Grade 1-win­ning 3-year-old filly of 2015, will make her sea­sonal de­but in Satur­day’s $150,000 Heav­enly Prize In­vi­ta­tional at Aqueduct.

For­merly known as the Cat Cay, the Heav­enly Prize, run at 1 1/16 miles over the in­ner track, drew a field of seven older fil­lies and mares.

In­clude Betty, trained by Tom Proc­tor, went 5 for 11 in 2015. She won four stakes, in­clud­ing the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Bel­mont in June. She has not raced since fin­ish­ing se­cond in the off-the-turf Val­ley View Stakes at Keeneland last Oct. 24.

In­clude Betty will be rid­den by Aaron Gry­der from post 4 in a seven-horse field that in­cludes Cali Star, the win­ner of the Grade 3 Ram­part at Gulf­stream, and House Rules, the win­ner of last year’s Grade 3 Top Flight here.

Santa Anita: Santa Ys­abel

AR­CA­DIA, Calif. – Not Now Carolyn joined trainer Keith De­sormeaux’s sta­ble at the be­gin­ning of the year af­ter losses in two maiden races for sprint­ers. Two months later, she is a win­ner bound for a graded stakes.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Not Now Carolyn’s stakes de­but is in Satur­day’s $100,000 Santa Ys­abel Stakes for 3-year-old fil­lies at Santa Anita. The race has drawn Song­bird, the un­beaten cham­pion 2-year-old filly of 2015.

De­sormeaux is not de­terred. The Grade 3 Santa Ys­abel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles fits Not Now Carolyn’s sched­ule.

“I’ve got to go,” he said. “We’re not afraid to run in stakes. We didn’t ex­pect to run against Song­bird.”

Not Now Carolyn is by top sire Tapit and is out of Mary­field, the 2007 Eclipse Award win­ner as out­stand­ing fe­male sprinter. Not Now Carolyn was sev­enth and ninth in sprints for trainer Eric Guil­lot last Novem­ber and De­cem­ber be­fore be­ing pri­vately ac­quired by a part­ner­ship that in­cludes Big Chief Sta­ble and Don’t Tell My Wife Sta­ble.

In her first start for her new con­nec­tions, Not Now Carolyn led through­out a maiden spe­cial weight race at a mile Jan. 28, win­ning by 1 1/2 lengths.

“Her maiden [race] was enough for me to be op­ti­mistic,” De­sormeaux said.

The Santa Ys­abel has a pro­jected field of six, in­clud­ing Code War­rior, Jade Princess, Land Over Sea, and Street Fancy.

De­sormeaux knows that Not Now Carolyn faces a daunting task against Song­bird, which is why a plac­ing in a graded stakes would be con­sid­ered a suc­cess.

“It’s not al­ways about win­ning,” he said. “It’s a pro­gres­sion of where we want to be. If we could run se­cond to the cham­pion, that would be won­der­ful.”

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