Samraat Keeps Record Perfect in Thrilling Gotham
By Dick Downey
Updated 11:20 p.m. correcting Uncle Sigh's record
Samraat edged Uncle Sigh and In Trouble after a thrilling stretch run in the Gotham Stakes.
Those three were on the engine from the break, with In Trouble getting to the first turn sightly in front of Uncle Sigh and Samraat. They ran in that order around the first turn, up the backstretch, around the second turn and into the lane. In Trouble was on the inside after breaking from the rail, and Samraat was to Uncle Sigh's outside. The first quarter-mile was timed in :23.85, the half in :48.30 and six furlongs in 1:12.30.
The same three dueled through the stretch to the wire, with Samraat, ridden by Jose Ortiz, and Uncle Sigh, with Corey Nakatani aboard, barely inching ahead of In Trouble, who had Joe Rocco, Jr. in the saddle. They were 1-2-3 at the furlong marker, and that's how they finished.
Following what was described as a "general stewards' inquiry," the race was declared official.
The final time was 1:44.44 for the 1 1/16-mile Gotham. Samraat paid $6.40 to win, $3.90 to place and $2.40 to show as the 2-1 post-time favorite.
Only two necks separated the top three finishers. Financial Mogul finished fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, followed a head back by Harpoon, then Master Lightning, Deceived, Extrasexyhippzster and Noble Cornerstone.
It was the fifth win in five races for Samraat, who most recently captured the Withers Stakes in the first open company race for the new York-bred. The Withers win was preceded by victory in the Damon Runyon Stakes. Ortiz has been aboard for all five races.
Uncle Sigh finished second in the Withers, beaten less than a length. He now owns one win and three seconds from four starts.
It was the first race of 2014 for In Trouble, who was last seen winning the six-furlong Futurity at Belmont Park in September. He's now 2-0-1 from three starts.
With the 50 Kentucky Derby points he earned, Samraat upped his total to 60. Uncle Sigh picked up 20 points, pushing his total 24. In Trouble earned his first 10 points, and Financial Mogul earned his first five.
There's also the purse, a not insignificant $500,000. From that total, Samraat and Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farm picked up $300,000, and $100,000 went to Uncle Sigh. The remaining purse is divided 10% to third, 5% to fourth, 3% to fifth and 2% divided equally among the remaining finishers.
Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. said after the race that Samraat will be returned to Florida for training and be pointed to the Wood Memorial if the colt does well. Uncle Sigh and In Trouble are expected back in the Wood.
By Noble Causeway, Samraat, a homebred, is out of the Indian Charlie mare Little Indian Girl.
Rick Violette: "This is a real horse now. We knew he had a shot to be a real horse after the Withers; he proved he is a real horse today. This was a good field. It was a deep field of horses. The weight had me worried. We picked up five pounds from last time; that's a big shift." Are you thinking about the Kentucky Derby? "I'd be lying if I said we weren't already thinking it. At this stage, we didn't want to do anything that would prevent us from going to the Derby. A couple of races before the Derby probably toughens him, but this was another stretch-long, hard duel, but Jose never hit him. He's an honest racehorse, and there might be a little left. Today, he graduated big time. His last race was a terrific race, and this was a notch above that. He was pretty impressive today. He leaves for Florida tomorrow. The Wood is a real possibility. That would be our best option as long as the horse cooperates and tells us that we should get on a plane and come up for it."
Jose Ortiz: "He has a lot of heart, he's a nice horse. We had a good trip, broke from the eight post. As soon as we got to the first turn I was third behind the two leaders, and that's where I wanted to be. He responded very good. In the stretch when I showed him the whip a little bit, he was lugging in, but he never made contact with other horses. I just hand rode him, and he responded very good, and I tried to keep him straight. He runs good when he's in the front, but I rated him the last two times, and he responded and passed horses and kept running. That's a nice horse. I think he's going to handle (more distance) very good."
Leonard Riggio: "We thought he might need a little more time. The horse bounced back pretty quick. He's a magnificent horse, and that was some race."
Gary Contessa, trainer of Uncle Sigh: "Samraat is a nice horse. Now I'm a believer. We closed the gap on him a little bit today, and my horse is still very young. He was intimidated and he got bumped, and he might have been a little bit cautious down in there, but we're getting better. He's certainly developing."
Do you plan to compete in the Wood Memorial? "Absolutely. It's still home-field advantage, it's a mile and an eighth on the main track, I love the distance. God willing, and, if the horse is sound, we'll come back in the Wood."
Corey Nakatani, aboard Uncle Sigh: "These young colts, he was trying to run, but he no room to stride. He's getting a lot of experience out of this. I thought he ran a great race. I thought they'd go a little bit quicker."
Joe Rocco, Jr., aboard In Trouble: "Coming off a layoff we were concerned he might need a race, but he ran very game. Very game. He really dug in well, and we're looking forward to see what he can do next time. (Tony Dutrow) thinks we're going to move forward with him, to the (Wood)."