Kentucky Derby Preps: Gotham Stakes

As the road to the 147th Kentucky Derby rolls along, US Racing looks back at some history of many of the prep races that now offer qualifying points to Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 1.

By Margaret Ransom

Since the first running of the Gotham Stakes (G3) in 1953, first at Jamaica Racetrack and now at Aqueduct, a lot of very 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 won the 1973 Gotham on his way to sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.

The origin for the race’s name is simple: it comes from one of New York City’s most popular nicknames, Gotham City. The word ‘Gotham’ was originally used in England and translated in Old English it 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, a satirical periodical, in 1807.

Each year the Gotham is considered by many to be a main stop on the Triple Crown trail even though it has only produced a single Derby winner. One other runner, Easy Goer, had an impact on the Triple Crown, winning the Belmont Stakes to spoilt Sunday Silence’s Triple try in 1989.

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.

In Saturday’s edition, a field of eight was entered, including trainer Bob Baffert’s Freedom Fighter and a pair of Chad Brown horses – Highly Motivated and Crowded Trade.

A year ago, Cash Is King and LC Racing’s Mischevious Alex earned the Gotham win under Irad Ortiz, Jr. for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. Maybe because of COVID-19 restrictions and the Triple Crown race jumble, or perhaps because the Into Mischief colt was showing that shorter distances would be his forte, Mischevious Alex was rerouted off the Derby trail and set down the sprinting road. He won the Gulfstream

Park Sprint Stakes (G3) two weeks ago. Regardless of its record in producing Derby winners, 50 valuable “Road to the Derby” points are up for grabs for the win, plus 20-10-5 through for the next three finishers.

Five jockeys are tied for the most wins in the Gotham with three — Mike Smith, Richard Migliore, Jacinto Vasquez, Jorge Velasquez and Angel Cordero, Jr. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has saddled three winners, 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 at 1 mile 70 yards. Saturday’s Gotham is at 1 mile.

The latest renewal of the Gotham carries a purse of $300,000 and has been carded as the day’s ninth race with a post time of 5:07 p.m. ET.

The Saturday afternoon weather in New York is expected to be cold, with a peak high in the mid-30s. No rain or snow is expected.

The field for the Gotham, by post-position, with jockeys and trainers in parentheses:

1. Atlantic Road (Jorge Vargas, Jr., Todd Pletcher)

Quality Road—Smart ‘n Special, by Smart Strike

2. The Reds (Pablo Morales, John Kimmel)

Tonalist–Ash Zee, by Exchange Rate

3. Highly Motivated (Javier Castellano, Chad Brown)

Into Mischief—Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward

4. Wipe the Slate (Kendrick Carmouche, Doug O’Neill)

Nyquist—Fancy and Flashy, by Zensational

5. Crowded Trade (Eric Cancel, Chad Brown)

More Than Ready—Maude S, by Jump Start

6. Capo Kane (Dylan Davis, Harold Wyner)

Street Sense—Twirl Me, by Hard Spun

7. Freedom Fighter (Manny Franco, Bob Baffert)

Violence—Canadian Ballet, by City Zip

8. Weyburn (Trevor McCarthy, Jimmy Jerkens)

Pioneerof the Nile—Sunday Affair, by A.P. Indy

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.