Down to the Wire: Gotham Stakes, Swale Stakes & Palm Beach Stakes

Last weekend, Intense Holiday roared home to just nip Albano in the Risen Star, whilst General A Rod and Wildcat Red dueled their way around Gulfstream, with the latter taking the win and earning valuable points along the way. This week's prep is the Gotham, but @Derbyologist and I also discussed the showdown between Havana and No Nay Never in the Swale, and Kentucky Derby/Oaks Futures. I hope you enjoy and thanks for watching!

3/1/2014: Aqueduct Race 9 -- G3 Gotham Stakes (8.5f, dirt)
An interesting field of eleven lines up here, with the coupled entry of Samraat and Noble Cornerstone likely to be sent off as the favorite. While Samraat most recently was a course and distance winner in the Withers, that was essentially a match race against Uncle Sigh, in which he held the advantage from the get go. He spots the son of Indian Charlie seven pounds this time around and I severely question whether a horse who on paper appears to be a sprinter will be able to replicate that effort his second time routing. Add that to the fact that the initial plan was to skip this race and at what will certainly be a very short price, he's a toss in my book. The aforementioned Uncle Sigh gets the nod this time around. If him and Samraat duel early, like they did in the Withers, he has the pedigree to truly stay 8.5f and can rate if necessary. The only question is how much their hard fought battle in the Withers took out of him. If for some reason, those two don't break away from the field early, look for Deceived to be in the mix. I've been high on this son of Broken Vow since he impressively broke his maiden in his fourth attempt and this guy is as gritty as they come. He's never finished outside the money and his only poor showing was in the Damon Runyon, where he completely blew the break, handing Samraat, who ran the race of his life, the softest of leads. Unlike Samraat and Uncle Sigh, he enters here coming off of an all too easy win in a local allowance, but he runs his best races as a presser, so he'll need to stay in touch with those two early to have a chance. The only other horse I view as a true competitor is Harpoon. He drew the outside stall, which for him is a plus, since he loves running outside in the clear. He has the physical ability to take it to this field, but as is the case with the Tapits, you never know what to expect from this guy and his inability to run between horses could very well force him into a wide trip. If the front two go out too quickly though, prepare to see him flying late.

As far as my bankroll play goes, Samraat at very low odds is a play against and while I think it's Uncle Sigh's race to lose, I opted to play a small double and add a few horses who would offer some value instead of a more costly exacta in which I would feel compelled to add Samraat underneath.

Bankroll Play: $2 Double: Teen Pauline, Centring / Uncle Sigh, Deceived, Harpoon

3/1/2014: Gulfstream Race 9 -- G2 Swale Stakes (7f, dirt)
A field of seven gathers for what has essentially been billed as a duel between G1 Champagne winner Havana and Prix Morny winner No Nay Never. These two, who were among the most impressive juveniles last year, are both making their three-year-old debuts and will be heavily bet in this contest. At short odds though, I can't side with No Nay Never, who although he has been visually impressive in his wins in Europe, the best horses he's beaten are fillies, he's yet to run this far, and he's never ran on dirt. Seven furlongs can be a tricky distance at times and I tend to side with horses who are cutting back from routes at this distance, which is the case for Havana, who most recently finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It's not reassuring that this race was not the original plan for Havana, who was sidelined from the worktab earlier this year, but Pletcher has been working him hard and often in preparation for this and I expect him to run a big one. The rail should also be a plus, as he has a pretty powerful first few strides out of the gate, which should allow him to snag the lead and run along the rail.

Pick: Havana to win

Weekend Quick Pick: 

3/1/2014: Gulfstream Race 10 -- G3 Palm Beach Stakes (9f, turf): Tipped up as a "Horse to Watch" on here following his third place finish in the Dania Beach, Pleuven, will be making his second start in America and I fully expect him to improve on what was a tough trip third in which he was absolutely flying late. He should relish the added distance.

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