Friday, February 23, 2024

Ky. Derby prep: Here’s a value pick in wide-open Gotham Stakes

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With 14 main entries and one also-eligible in the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, the one-mile race offers no shortage of options. The pace appears fast with several horses wanting to lead or press early on, which could make it easier for either a stalker or closer to pick up the win.

Two good horses who might end up stalking by default because of the other speed are Lugan Knight and Slip Mahoney. If the pace ends up moderate, they could press the leader or even set the pace if it really slows down. But neither colt holds a significant advantage over this evenly matched field.

In Lugan Knight’s most recent start, he surprisingly took the lead while under pressure from the favorite Arctic Arrogance in the local Jerome Stakes. The two speed horses took their battle into the stretch, where Lugan Knight continued to fight and hold off Arctic Arrogance for the win.  

Lugan Knight earned a 107 on TimeformUS for the win, which does not scare anyone in this race. In his next start, Arctic Arrogance ended up a disappointing second in the Withers Stakes (G3) as the more stamina-oriented Hit Show opened up on him in the stretch for a 5 1/2-length win.

Even though Lugan Knight could win the Gotham, the race feels too open to take him alone at a short price with no real figure or class advantage over the field.

As for Slip Mahoney, he set the pace under pressure from a mild long shot named Fast Boat to Skye in a local one-mile maiden race on Jan. 21. The fractions were not fast for the distance. After putting away Fast Boat to Skye, Slip Mahoney then held off a late charge from Crupi in the stretch run and prevailed by a head.

The notable part though is that 15 lengths separated Crupi from the third-place finisher Good Rapport. Big gaps indicate a quality dirt race. 

With that said, Slip Mahoney earned only a 108 on TimeformUS. Despite Crupi’s seventh-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), Slip Mahoney is also attracting attention from the public heading into this race.

Slip Mahoney owns the talent to win. But with no real speed figure or class advantage, it makes more sense to include other selections alongside him. In terms of win betting, he lacks the right value as well.

One interesting value option is Raise Cain, who enters this race off a disappointing effort in the Leonatus Stakes at Turfway Park. Cross out the synthetic effort and concentrate mainly on his longer dirt races.

In an Oct. 9 maiden race at Keeneland, Raise Cain won for the first time by 5 1/4 lengths at seven furlongs while earning a 105 on TimeformUS. For the time period, the figure was relatively good. 

Raise Cain then cut back to six furlongs in the Bowman Mill Stakes at Keeneland, and he ended up losing significant ground in the middle part of the race before passing a few horses late for a distant third-place finish.

Two months later, Raise Cain stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds, a Derby points race.

Although Jace’s Road took advantage of the slow pace to open up and win by 5 1/2 lengths, Raise Cain ran well to catch the heavy favorite Determinedly for second while rebounding to a 102 on TimeformUS.

It feels like no coincidence Raise Cain’s better dirt efforts came at the seven furlongs and 1 1/16-mile distances. This son of Violence is out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare named Lemon Belle, who is a half-sister to the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic champion Unrivaled Belle.  

Given those names, it feels like a given that Raise Cain wants either a longer sprint or route. Although he probably will thrive at longer distances in the future, for now, one mile is enough ground to give Raise Cain a fair chance.

In addition, with all the pace in the race, Raise Cain may benefit greatly as a mid-pack closer. He can avoid the stampede early on while running in the clear from Post 12 and then take his shot at the tired leaders on the turn.

With most of the attention falling toward Lugan Knight and Slip Mahoney, take a look at Raise Cain too. Those other two names are useful as backups in multi-race wagers, but Raise Cain offers enough value for a win bet.  

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