Poor Hansen didn’t have a clue he was about to tango with dynamite when he went up against Algorithms in the Holy Bull. Suffering the first loss of his career to the Todd Pletcher-trainee, the White Streak proved his vulnerability, which may account for the full field lined up to challenge him in the Gotham Stakes this Saturday. With Alpha out of town, and no other hometown heroes set to pounce, Hansen may have found the perfect spot to reset his sophomore campaign.
Even though his challengers don’t presently have much to brag about, plenty of variables are setting up to make the Gotham a challenge for Hansen. The son of Tapit will run without blinkers for the first time, and has drawn post 12 in a thirteen-horse field; this will also mark Hansen’s first start at Aqueduct. With the defection of the blinkers, the hope is to keep Hansen from being so keen to take a Presious Passion-esque lead, and therefore tire himself out before the 1 1/16th-mile race is over. Algorithms absolutely toasted him in the Holy Bull, but a few factors may have contributed to Hansen’s five-length loss in that race; he stumbled a bit at the start, which made him work a little harder than usual to grab the early lead, and it was also his first time running over a sloppy track. In other words, don’t give up on this guy just yet.
My Adonis will be back to challenge the Juvenile champ; last time out, the fast-closing colt just missed a tiring Hansen and finished third in the Holy Bull. This effort was a rebound off a poor placing in the Delta Jackpot Stakes, where My Adonis took part in a two-horse speed duel with Drill before fading to ninth. Even though he’s won by pressing the pace, My Adonis seems to be more dangerous coming from behind horses. He won as a stalker in the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs, and his flashy move from last to third in the Holy Bull suggests taking him back might be his best game plan.
Other noteworthy challengers in the Gotham include Dan and Sheila, who finished fourth in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in only his second career start, and the winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct, King And Crusader. Dan and Sheila, by More Than Ready, broke his maiden in a fairly nice performance going 1 mile at Gulfstream. King And Crusader is on a three-race win streak, with the past two victories coming at Aqueduct; before he took the Jimmy Winkfield, King And Crusader won a 1-mile optional claimer by two lengths, his lone try at the distance.
Pretension will enter the Gotham after a victory in Aqueduct’s Sweet Envoy Stakes on February 11th; this race marked Pretension’s second win in five starts, and his revenge against Swag Daddy, who beat him in the Damon Runyon Stakes. Pretension has never fared worse than second in his life, and as he likes both the distance and the track, should be a factor in the Gotham. Newly-minted maiden winner Stealcase seems like a better bet than many in this Gotham field. This son of Lawyer Ron won his first race his third time out at Gulfstream Park, going 1 1/16th-miles to beat Windsurfer by 1 ½ lengths; it was 8 ½ lengths back to the third-place finisher in that maiden special, leaving one to think this might be a nice late-comer to the scene.
Maan, undefeated in two starts, will make his Aqueduct and stakes debut in the Gotham. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Maan has the least experience in the entire field, but this is no reason to slough off a son of Malibu Moon; the colt has never run two turns, but there’s no better time to start than on the Derby trail. Breaking from the outside post, Tiger Walk will contest the Gotham after finishing third to Alpha in the Grade III Withers Stakes.
The Gotham Stakes serves as the traditional prep race for the historic Wood Memorial, New York’s last big stop before the Kentucky Derby. At first glance, Hansen stands a good chance of trouncing this field, but several contenders are just beginning to find their running legs and might creep up on him when he’s most vulnerable. If Hansen comes out victorious in the Gotham, it will prove he’s lost no footing and should still be considered a top Derby contender. Should he lose, watch for Hansen to divert back to Turfway Park and try to take it easier in the Spiral Stakes.
The Grade III Gotham Stakes will air live this Saturday on HRTV and TVG. Post time is scheduled for approximately 5:02pm ET.