By Dick Downey
Additional content by NYRA
A trio of graded stakes winners are expected to head the field of the Grade II Gotham Stakes: Overanalyze, Vyjack and Honorable Dillon.
Overanalyze, trained by Todd Pletcher, would make his 2013 debut. Last year, he won the Grade II Futurity at Belmont Park and the Grade II Remsen on the the main track at Aqueduct to close out his year.
Vyjack, trained by the hot hand Rudy Rodriguez, returns to the races after winning the Grade II Jerome on Jan. 5. Honorable Dillon posted a half-length victory in the seven-furlong, Grade II Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park last time out.
As many as eight others could go in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Among those are:
--Escapefromreality, beaten a neck by Revolutionary in the Grade III Withers on Feb. 2;
--Withers third-place finisher Siete de Oros;
--Ore Pass, most recently victorious in the Frank Whitely Stakes at Laurel Park;
--Shadwell Stable’s promising maiden winner Elnaawi;
--Sky Captain, second in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park last time out and scratched from the Fountain of Youth;
--West Hills Giant, most recently third in the Java Gold overnight stakes on Feb. 1;
--Alcolite, third in an optional claimer for New York-breds on Feb, 3;
--Champion Boy, fifth in the Withers.
Vyjack is unbeaten in three starts, all at Aqueduct. In his most recent outing, he contested the pace and wore down Siete de Oros to win the Jerome by a head. It was Rodriguez’ biggest victory since making the transition from riding to training in 2010. Elnaawi was purchased for $600,000 by Pick Six Racing at Keeneland's September 2011 yearling sale.
“I’m still dreaming. It’s a very good feeling,” said Rodriguez. “I’m very lucky to have him. The competition is going to get tougher, so he’ll have to keep stepping up.”
On Thursday, Rodriguez sent out Vyjack for a six-furlong breeze over the inner track. The gelded son of Into Mischief covered the distance in 1:15.13 (1/2).
“He did it very good and did everything we asked him to do,” said Rodriguez. “It looks like he’s coming into the race in good shape. He’s going a little longer this time, so we had him breeze six furlongs and gallop out seven eighths.”
Elnaawi, a half-brother of To Honor and Serve, will make his graded stakes debut in the Gotham, the Kiaran McLaughlin stable confirmed on Sunday. He was bought by Shadwell for $500,000 at the same Keeneland sale as Vyjack.
After finishing third in a seven-furlong sprint in the mud in December, Elnaawi, a son of Street Sense, successfully stretched out to a mile to break his maiden by four lengths over a muddy inner track on Jan. 12. He was entered in a Feb. 9 allowance race, but a winter snow storm caused a cancellation of racing at the Big A.
“We’ll see how we fit in. He’s training well and ran well, so here we are,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to McLaughlin.
Transparent, who broke his maiden by 5 3/4 lengths on Jan. 26 in his sixth start, could represent Darley Stable in the Gotham. He's also trained by McLaughlin.
“We’re not sure. We’ll talk to everyone involved,” said Magnuson. “He needs to take another step forward. They’re lightly raced, and it’s just a timing and experience thing.”