Samraat wins Gotham Stakes, earns Kentucky Derby slot
NEW YORK -- Samraat improved to 5 for 5 with a victory Saturday in the $500,000 Gotham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.
The latest victory was worth 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, ensuring him a spot in the Derby field, assuming he remains healthy.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't already thinking about the Kentucky Derby," trainer Rick Violette said. "At this stage, we don't want to do anything that would prevent us from going to the Derby,"
This was the sternest test yet for the New York-bred colt.
Samraat, ridden by Jose Ortiz for My Meadowview Farm, ranged into contention with a sweeping move on the final turn. It was a three-way battle the rest of the way with Samraat on the outside finally prevailing by a neck over Uncle Sigh, who raced in the middle. The pacesetting In Trouble was third down on the rail, only a half-length behind the winner.
There was a steward's inquiry into the spirited stretch battle and the order of finish was not changed.
The time was 1:44.44 for 1-1/16 miles on a fast track. Samraat paid $6.40 as the 2-1 favorite.
Violette said Samraat heads to Florida on Sunday to continue his Derby preparations. The colt will likely return to Aqueduct for the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 5 as his final tuneup before shipping to Kentucky.
"That would be our best option, as long as the horse cooperates and tells us he should get on a plane and come up for it," Violette said.
The top-two finish was a repeat of the Withers Stakes last month at Aqueduct where Samraat beat Uncle Sigh by one length.
Gary Contessa, Uncle Sigh's trainer, wants another crack at Samraat in the Wood.
"God willing and if the horse is sound, we'll come back in the Wood," Contessa said.
In Trouble ran well in his first start capturing the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park last September.
"Coming off a layoff we were concerned he might need a race but he ran very game," jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. said.
Financial Mogul was fourth followed by Harpoon, Master Lightning, Deceived, Extrasexyhippzster and Noble Cornerstone.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. won both $200,000 supporting stakes.
Strapping Groom rallied to beat Dads Caps by a length in the Tom Fool Handicap, paying $4.30 to win for trainer David Jacobson.
Ortiz picked up his fourth win on the day as Teen Pauline, the 1-5 favorite, overcame a stumble at the start to win the Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares. It was the third straight Aqueduct stakes victory for Teen Pauline, a 4-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher. She paid $2.70 to win.