2015 Gotham Stakes Picks, Odds and Expert Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/5/2015
The biggest threat in the Gotham Stakes could be the weather. Conditions are always a potential concern in this race - it is run in New York in early March, after all. This year, though, the weather has created a nightmare at Aqueduct. They have cancelled racing on Thursday - the 14th card lost to the weather this winter. In a year when we have already seen two prep races at other tracks postponed because of weather, let's hope that Mother Nature lets us see what should be a pretty interesting Gotham.
This race was won in 1973 by some horse named Secretariat. I'd have to look it up, but I think he won a thing or two after this victory. Classic winners Easy Goer and Red Bullet also won here. In recent years it has, like the Wood Memorial, which this is the major prep race for, struggled to produce top-level contenders for the Triple Crown. 2009 winner I Want Revenge was on track to be the Kentucky Derby favorite until he was scratched on the morning of that race, though.
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Here's how this year's field shapes up:
El Kabeir (8/5): This horse has lost a whole lot of hype after a disappointing outing last time. He got locked in a tough duel with Classy Classy, who he will face again here, and then didn't have enough left to fight off the hard-charging Far From Over at the end. It wasn't a disaster - he still finished second - but it wasn't the dominating performance that many were hoping for. Now he's looked at as a second-tier Kentucky Derby contender, though one still good enough to be favored here. The horse got locked in a duel up front much earlier than he would have ideally liked to in his last race. There is a good deal more speed in this race, though, so if he can relax and let others do the early work he could be in better position in this one. If he makes the mistake of locking up with one of the leaders early again, though, then it could be a problem. I like the horse, but I am not blown away by him. At this price I am happy to look to beat him if I can. One reason to cheer for him, though, is jockey C.C. Lopez - the kind of outsider jockey who I love to see get a once-in-a-lifetime shot in the Derby.
Classy Classy (7/2): This is a much better pick at the price, so I hope the prices don't shift too much from the morning line. He was beaten by El Kabeir, but I am fine with that. He wasn't sharp heading into that race, and he really didn't need or want to be on the lead - never mind in a fight on the lead. He seems more suited for coming from a bit off the pace, and that seems to be the approach his connections are looking to go with in this race. He has worked very well heading into this race and has the talent to take a step forward. If he can put it all together then he could make things very interesting here.
The Pletcher Three: Trainer Todd Pletcher has three in this race. Blame Jim, Uninfluenced and Dontbetwithbruno are combined as an entry because they are all owned by Mike Repole, the founder of Vitamin Water. They are going off at 5/1. That's a price that is far too low for any of them. Blame Jim is perhaps the most talented, but he is a sprinter trying to stretch out for this first time - and that's a concern for any horse in stakes company, never mind one that is likely to look for a piece of the lead. Dontbetwithbruno has only won his maiden race, and Uninfluenced is still a maiden. This is a raw group. Pletcher entered these horses and chose to train Far From Over up to the Wood Memorial instead of racing him here. It's yet another decision that has to make you question why Pletcher makes the decisions he makes heading to the Derby every year. It certainly is less of a surprise each time he flops in the biggest of races despite having many horses in the field.
Lieutenant Colonel (5/1): This is a much better horse at this price than Pletcher's. He won at Gulfstream last time out and made it look easy. He's moving up to two turns here, but he has the talent and breeding to handle it. That was his only career start, so he is raw, but Chad Brown is a smart trainer, so if he is willing to ship the horse up here for this spot it's worth a look. He pressed the pace in his lone race but didn't seem like a horse that needed the lead, so he should be able to avoid things if it gets crazy up front here. Worth a look. He might not win, but he should be a part of the exotics at least.
Raphael Esparza will be handicapping not one, not two, but three stakes races this weekend. Saturday's stake races start off at Aqueduct (Gotham Stakes) then over at Tampa Bay Downs is the Tampa Bay Derby and then we close the day of races with San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Esparza is one of the best horse racing handicappers in the nation, and he is expecting a big payday this Saturday and throughout the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Get his weekend picks for both races for just $30 here, or new clients can take advantage of Doc's no-hassle $60 free picks offer and get Esparza's weekend racing picks and still have a $30 credit to use for any picks from any handicapper on the site. Click here for $60 worth of free picks.
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