by Greg Melikov - 03/13/2006
Saturday's racing spotlight will be on four different tracks where a dozen of the Top 25 3-year-olds will attempt to make their case to stay on the Road to the Roses.
All four graded stakes, worth at least a total of $1 million, are 1 1/16 miles. The most interesting race appears to be the $200,000 Gotham Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Aqueduct's inner track.
That's because the three main contenders all captured their last stakes rather convincingly:
Achilles of Troy cruised to a 4 ¾-length victory over One Way Flight in the Whirlaway at 1 1/16 miles at Aqueduct on Feb. 11. They meet again in the Gotham.
Keyed Entry defeated First Samurai by 1 ¼ lengths in the Hutcheson at 7 ½ furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4. First Samurai's next race is the Blue Grass on April 15.
Sweetnorthernsaint romped in the Miracle Wood by 10 lengths in the Miracle Wood at a mile at Laurel on Feb. 4.
Surprisingly, the only horse that won the Kentucky Derby after taking the Gotham was Secretariat in 1973.
The race mainly serves as a prep for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Eighteen horses that ran in the Wood hit the board at Churchill Downs, including 11 that won the Kentucky Derby.
The $300,000 Rebel Stakes features the one-two finishers in the Southwest Stales at a mile on Feb. 25 at Oaklawn Park.
Lawyer Ron goes for his third consecutive stakes victory this year. In the Southwest, he bested Steppenwolfer by three-quarters of a length.
Private Vow is making his first start as a sophomore after a successful 2-year-old campaign that included four triumphs and a second in six starts.
Only two horses that took the Rebel were victorious at Louisville, including Smarty Jones in '04. This race primarily serves as a prep for the Arkansas Derby. Horses that raced in Oaklawn's premier stakes won at Churchill Downs twice, including Smarty Jones who also captured the Southwest, and ran second twice.
The $250,000 San Felipe at Santa Anita has attracted Bob and John, who won the Sham by 4 ½ lengths at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 4. He will face several sophomores who must step up if they want to be racing May at Louisville: A. P. Warrior, Point Determined, Great Point and Refinery. Of the 11 runners that went on to the Kentucky Derby, four made the winner's circle and six were runners-up.
The 26th running of the $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby pits the one-two finishers in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 18. Bluegrass Cat defeated Deputy Glitters by 1 ¼ lengths at Tampa Bay Downs.