A dozen 3-year-olds, including Grade II Remsen winner Overanalyze and Grade II Jerome winner Vyjack, were entered in Saturday’s 60th running of the Grade III Gotham Stakes, worth 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
The favorite’s role at a 5-2 morning line goes to Overanalyze, a son of Dixie Union for whom Repole paid $380,000 as a yearling. The colt, who makes his 2013 debut, had a solid juvenile campaign that included a pair of graded stakes wins in addition to his first-out maiden score: a rallying 3 1/2-length win in the Grade II Futurity at Belmont Park and a gutsy nose victory over Normandy Invasion in the Remsen in late November, his final start of the year.
The 1 1/8-mile Remsen was run on Aqueduct's main track. The 1 1/16-mile Gotham is on the inner dirt track.
Overanalyze spent the winter at trainer Todd Pletcher’s base at Palm Meadows, where he's been training steadily. On Monday, he breezed four furlongs in :48.75.
“I think he had an incredible 2-year-old campaign,” said owner Mike Repole, whose Stay Thirsty won the 2011 Gotham. “Overanalyze’s two graded stakes wins were very, very impressive. He showed courage and a big heart in coming back to win the Remsen, and those are things you can’t measure.
“He’s training really good; Todd told me he’s ready,” added Repole. “He’s definitely moved up from two to three, and we’ll find out Saturday where he is. It’s been (three) months, and we’re excited about getting him here.”
John Velazquez returns in the irons Saturday. The colt drew the outside post 12.
Second choice at 3-1 is Vyjack, a son of Into Mischief who's won all three of his starts, all at the Big A. Vyjack won both of his 2012 races and returned on Jan. 5 to post a hard-fought head decision over Siete de Oros in the Jerome, his first effort around two turns.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” said trainer Rudy Rodriguez of Vyjack, who will have a new jockey Saturday in Joel Rosario. “But the competition is going to get tougher, and he’s going to have to keep stepping up.”
Vyjack, who shares top weight of 123 pounds with Overanalyze, drew post 8.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has entered a trio: Elnaami, a four-length maiden winner on Jan. 12 at the track, and recent maiden winners Transparent and Now and Then -- although one of the latter two may await an allowance race on Sunday.
“What we were thinking about is they all have talent,” said McLaughlin. “They’re all colts who we think can be graded stakes winners. Elnaawi won easily last time out. It’s a big step up, but we think he’s a nice horse. It would be nice to get points and have a chance to run in the Derby. With the other two, we’re not sure what we’re going to do, but, bottom line, they’re all talented colts with a future.”
Elnaawi, who will get first-time Lasix, drew post 9 with Channing Hill aboard at 8-1 on the morning line. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was named to ride Transparent from post 5, while Junior Alvarado was named aboard Now and Then, who drew post 6. The entry is listed at 8-1.
Escapefromreality, 6-1, heads a long list of Grade III Withers graduates heading to the Gotham. While winner Revolutionary earned a trip to Florida, the next four finishers return. Second by just a neck was Escapefromreality, followed by Siete de Oros, Amerigo Vespucci and Champion Boy.
“I definitely think he’s going to improve,” said owner Anthony J. Bonomo, who campaigns Escapefromreality with his wife, MaryEllen. “That was his first time going two turns. It was a shame he got caught at the wire, but since that race, he’s just been getting better and better, training-wise.”
David Cohen will ride Escapefromreality from 2.
Rounding out the field are:
--Ore Pass, winner of Laurel Park’s Frank Whitely stakes last time out;
--Sky Captain, most recently second in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream Park;
--New York-bred West Hills Giant, the New York Breeders’ Futurity winner who was third in the restricted Java Gold overnight stakes in his sophomore debut.
Clawback, who was considered for the Gotham, will be kept to sprinting, for now at least, with plans to run him in the March 9 Cappy Capossela. Honorable Dillon, reported considered for the Gotham, is now expected in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby.
The winner of the Gotham will be awarded 50 points under the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system, virtually guaranteeing a berth in the starting gate.
The Gotham will be run as race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card at the Big A, which includes the Grade III Tom Fool Handicap and the Grade II Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares.
Edited NYRA release