Rematch in Gotham
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.”