2023 Gotham Stakes Odds & Tom Fool H Picks

Bettors face difficult choices at Aqueduct on Saturday, with a very competitive full field of Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the G3 2023 Gotham Stakes, led by Eyeing Clover and Slip Mahoney from Brad Cox’s barn and Carmel Road and Fort Warren, formerly of Bob Baffert’s empire. The G3 Tom Fool is a tight little sprint featuring old rivals Drafted and Little Vic.

Gotham Stakes

G3, $300,000, 1m dirt, 3yo, 4.56pm ET

A full field of wannabes without an established star goes to the gate for the 2023 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, a 50pt Road to the Kentucky Derby contest that will lock up a spot in the Kentucky Derby for the winner.

There are no previous Graded-stakes winners here and someone is going to have to step up, but Brad Cox has been firing in prep winners left, right and centre and his pair have to be respected. Eyeing Clover romped gate to wire to win a Fair Grounds allowance optional claimer by almost ten lengths and now stretches out from six furlongs, but is off Lasix for the first time. His barnmate Slip Mahoney was only a neck behind the highly regarded Tapit Trice in a maiden over course and distance in December, and then gamely broke his duck, again over course and distance but with first-time Lasix, in a slowish time in January.

Both are lightly raced and almost guaranteed to move up, as is the typically unexposed Chad Brown contender Uncorrelated, comfortable Lasix-assisted winner on debut here over six furlongs.

Stakes-winner Lugan Knight nailed the Jerome over course and distance when leading at every call, but his narrow defeat of Arctic Arrogance didn’t impress many and that runner-up has a habit of coming up short. General Banker was seven and a half lengths back in third and was beaten a mile in the G3 Withers last time.

Two with almost identical profiles are Recruiter and Howgreatisnate, both unbeaten in four with a stakes win at Parx last time out. Recruiter got his over seven furlongs, but the runner-up was beaten out of sight in the G3 Withers next time, while Howgreatisnate won a very uncompetitive six-furlong contest that bears no resemblance to today’s setting. Both need more and unbeaten records can be misleading, especially those compiled at second-tier circuits.

There’s an intriguing subplot with two horses having their first run after leaving Bob Baffert’s barn, making themselves eligible to collect points and qualify for the Derby. Carmel Road is now with Tim Yakteen and comes off second spot in the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity over a mile-sixteenth, comfortably beaten but perhaps likely to be suited by cutting back in distance.

Brittany Russell now conditions Fort Warren, who made no play when third of four in the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita. It was just his second start and he can move up, but this is a tough test and he may not be ready.

A Todd Pletcher runner should never be ignored, but Clubhouse is one-for-seven and didn’t encourage when runner-up in a six-furlong stakes here latest, while Transect is unbeaten in two sprints on the Turfway Park synthetic strip and has a lot of tricky questions to answer. Raise Cain is zero-for-three in stakes since winning his maiden at Keeneland and this class hike may not be the right move.

2023 Gotham Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
Clear the AirJack Gilligan+3000
HowgreatisnateJ. D. Acosta+1000
Mr. SwaggerCarlos Olivero+1000
UncorrelatedManuel Franco+1000
Carmel RoadEric Cancel+600
General BankerFrankie Pennington+3000
TransectJoseph Talamo+1500
Fort WarrenJevian Toledo+1200
ClubhouseKendrick Carmouche+2000
Lugan KnightDylan Davis+600
Slip MahoneyTrevor McCarthy+500
Raise CainJose Lezcano+3000
Eyeing CloverFlorent Geroux+400
RecruiterAngel Cruz+1200
Radio RedJose Antonio Gomez+5000

A tricky puzzle. Carmel Road is one to consider but SLIP MAHONEY has well-connected form, comes from the right barn and has already won over course and distance.


Tom Fool Handicap

G3, $150,000, 6f dirt, 4yo+, 4.27pm ET

The Tom Fool is one of those fascinating speed tests in which practically every horse has a decent shot, and it all comes down to who is locked and loaded on the day. Collateral form is often no help in this type of race, but front and centre here is the third leg of an ongoing duel that stands at one apiece.

The greybeard Drafted and the youngster Little Vic are old rivals with a score to settle. Two starts ago Drafted nailed Little Vic in the final strides of a stakes over course and distance, getting home by a nose.

Last time out, Little Vic got revenge when the pair ran two-three in the G3 Toboggan here over seven furlongs, separated by a length and a quarter. Pirate Rick was fourth, a half-length behind Drafted, and has since been well beaten in another G3, hinting that he may not be up to this level.

Drafted got going too late and couldn’t land a punch, but seems equally adept over six and seven furlongs and won’t be disadvantaged by cutting back. Little Vic hasn’t been out of the first two on his last four starts and has room to improve, unlike his ancient rival, but it’s possible that seven furlongs is his ticket and today’s distance makes his job that bit harder.

An easy shorthand for sprints is ‘Wesley Ward’, and the king of speed gives the job to Nakatomi, who had a half-and-half year in 2022, winning two allowance optional claimers but missing the board in two Graded races, latterly when fourth behind Taiba in the seven-furlong G1 Malibu at Santa Anita.

He was ridden chilly to get the distance there but should be more effective over this six, and the only query is whether he has the class to break his zero-for-four streak at Graded level.

For consistency, the prize goes to Runninsonofagun, who has hit the board in all but one of 12 starts and hit the jackpot in the G3 Bold Ruler over course and distance last October, when hanging on gamely to nose out the rallying Eastern Bay, with Drafted closing late for fifth, a length and a half back. Next time he went under by only a neck when carrying 132lb in the G3 Fall Highweight, again over course and distance, and reserves his best for the Big A.

Eastern Bay franked that form last month when driving home to win the seven-furlong G3 General George at Laurel Park and is in the form of his life at the age of nine. Seven furlongs suits him better than six, though.

Chateau won the Tom Fool in 2021, beating Wendell Fong by three and a half lengths, and was runner-up 12 months ago, but he hasn’t won in five starts and it’s possible that he is beginning a downward spiral after three straight defeats in AOCs.

Tom Fool Handicap Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
Eastern BayWilliam Humphrey+400
ChateauJose Lezcano+1000
RunninsonofagunKendrick Carmouche+250
DraftedLuis A. Rodriguez Castro+600
Pirate RickJose Antonio Gomez+800
NakatomiDylan Davis+300
Little VicCarlos Olivero+600
Wendell FongJorge A. Vargas, Jr.+2000

It’s hard to rule out any of these, but RUNNINSONOFAGUN runs his best races here and may well have more to come at a distance that suits him perfectly.

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