Derby Prep Primer: Gotham Stakes

By Margaret Ransom

Montauk Traffic – Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Durand / NYRA

Since the first running of the Gotham (G3) in 1953, first at Jamaica Racetrack and now at Aqueduct, a lot of really good horses have reached the winner’s circle, including Native Dancer, Jaipur, Dr. Fager, Gone West, Devil His Due and Lure. Perhaps the most notable Gotham winner, however, is Triple Crown champion Secretariat, who took the Gotham in 1973 on his way to earning his spot in racing immortality.

The race’s name is simple, it comes from one of New York City’s most popular nicknames, Gotham City. It was originally used in England and translated in Old English literally means “homestead where goats are kept.” It was first used as a nickname for New York City, first by Washington Irving in his Salmagundi Papers in 1807.

Each year the Gotham is considered by many to be a main stop on the Triple Crown trail despite the fact that in all the years it’s been contested it’s only produced a single Derby winner and one other runner, Easy Goer, to have any impact on the celebrated three-race series for 3-year-old colts. It is, however, the main prep for the Wood Memorial (G2) in a month, a race also with a storied history but a lower than average impact on the Derby aside from a significant number of winners making the gate for the Run for the Roses.

A year ago, Shadwell Farm’s homebred Haikal won the Gotham before finishing third in the Wood Memorial, and then made it to Louisville for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin only to be scratched due to a hoof abscess less than three days before the race.

Regardless of its record in producing Derby winners, 50 valuable Road to the Kentucky Derby points are up for grabs for the win, plus 20-10-5 through a fourth-place finish.

Five jockeys are tied for the most wins in the Gotham – Mike Smith, Richard Migliore, Jacinto Vazquez, Jorge Velasquez and Angel Cordero, Jr. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has saddled three winners as well, including Easy Goer in 1989. Easy Goer set the stakes and track record of 1:32 2/5 when it was contested at a mile, but the race has also been contested at 1 1/16 miles and a mile and 70 yards. This year the race will be contested at a mile once again.

The latest renewal of the Gotham carries a purse of $300,000 and has been carded as the day’s 10th race with a post time of 5:42 p.m. ET.

The Saturday afternoon high in New York is expected to peak in the mid-40s with no rain or snow expected after a Friday filled with rain. It will be cold, but the sun will be out through partly cloudy skies.

The field for the Gotham, in post-position order with jockeys, trainers, and pedigree:

Derby Prep Primer: Gotham Stakes

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Breeding
1 Celtic Striker R. Maragh R. Handal Congrats—Shylock’s Daughter, by Star Dabbler
2 Informative , J. Bisono U. St. Lewis Bodemeister—Lucky Black, by Hard Spun
3 War Stopper J. Vargas, Jr R. Rodriguez Declaration of War—Mira Alta, by Curlin
4 Attachment Rate L. Saez D. Romans Hard Spun—Aristra, by Afleet Alex
5 Necker Island M. Franco S. Hough Hard Spun—Jenny’s Rocket, by Mr. Greeley
6 Mischevious Alex K. Carmouche J. Servis Into Mischief—White Pants Night, by Speightstown
7 Sixto E. Cancel E. Guillot Curlin—Drift to the Lead, by Yonaguska
8 Montauk Traffic J. Lezcano L. Rice Cross Traffic—Taittinger Rose, by Menifee
9 Flap Jack D. Carroll J. Sisterson Oxbow—Synkros, by Tapit
10 Untitled J. Alvarado M. Casse L Khozan—Cindy Says, by Elusive Quality
11 First Deputy D. Davis L. Rice Awesome Again—Queen Buxley, by Super Saver
Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.