OZONE PARK, N.Y. — Following a win in his stakes debut, Shadwell Stable's Haikal proved he could handle a step up in class, making a strong rally from the outside in the final furlong to run down three competitors and post a one-length win in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham for 3-year-olds as part of a stakes-filled card at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 9.
The 67th running of the Gotham, part of New York's "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, offered 50-20-10-5 qualifying points for the Run for the Roses to the top-four finishers. Haikal, in his graded stakes debut, ensured he earned the highest total with a patient trip under jockey Rajiv Maragh.
The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee stayed off Much Better's early speed as he led the eight-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.36 seconds and the half in 44.42 on the fast main track.
In the stretch of the one-turn mile, Haikal was stationed fourth on the inside as Knicks Go, the Bob Baffert-trained Much Better and even-money favorite Instagrand vied for supremacy. Maragh angled Haikal to the outside, and the Daaher colt bolted to the wire, overtaking the three competitors before finishing in a final time of 1:35.63.
"I felt like he was full of run, and I felt like we kind of had them measured," Maragh said. "I just hoped he'd continue his run and not ease up, and he continued running, so it worked out good. It wasn't that close at the end."
Haikal, off at 4-1, returned $10.80 on a $2 win wager. Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Haikal notched his third straight win and is 3-1-0 in four career starts, all at the Big A. Haikal, who broke his maiden at six furlongs and won the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on Feb. 9, earned his first victory at a mile.
"He showed me every indicator that he'll excel the further the distance goes, so that's not anything that I'm concerned about," Maragh added "I'm actually looking forward to him running those long distances."
Added Joe Lee, assistant to McLaughlin: "Kiaran had spoken to Rajiv and that was actually the plan: let him settle early, and then make that run. Rajiv rode him perfectly. When I saw him closing I was just hoping he'd get there.
"I knew he was going to come, it was just a matter of if he was going to get there in time. Even at the eighth-pole, sixteenth-pole, I knew from the way he ran last time that he was still going to fight it out."
Mind Control, a Stay Thirsty colt, rallied up the rail to edge Instagrand by a half-length for second, earning 20 additional Derby qualifying points. Trained by Greg Sacco and ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Mind Control increased his total points to 30, adding to the 10 he earned for winning the Jerome on New Year's Day at the Big A.
"He ran a huge race, but he got caught right at the wire. They went fast enough, and I was just trying to stay back and give my horse a chance," Velazquez said. "He ran like a good horse today, but the other horse got up to beat him at the wire."
Instagrand, conditioned by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, finished a nose in front of fellow California shipper Much Better, with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, for third. The winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal last out had won his first two career starts.
"I was fine with how he did it today. I'm not disappointed at all," said Instagrand's Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano. "He was off a long time and to bring him back at a mile, he only got beat a length.
"I like the way he rated behind horses," he added. "He doesn't have to be on the lead now. We can play both games. He can be right behind the horses. It's true progress for his third race. I'm very satisfied. I got beat, but I'm satisfied with the way he did it today."
Family Biz, Tikhvin Flew, Knicks Go and Not That Brady completed the order of finish.
Do Share keeps glory to himself with convincing G3 Tom Fool Handicap victory
Three Diamond Farm's Do Share ran down three horses with a strong stretch-drive surge, clearing away for an impressive 6 1/2-length win in the 44th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for 4-year-olds and up.
The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding earned his first trip to the winner's circle since 2017, staying off the early speed as 2-1 favorite Skyler's Scramjet led the seven-horse field through a blistering opening quarter-mile in 21.92 seconds and the half in 44.83 on the fast main track.
Jockey Reylu Gutierrez, bidding for his first career graded stakes victory, urged Do Share into contention from the outside. His charge responded by overtaking Bavaro, Syndergaard and Skyler's Scramjet, rocketing to the wire in a final time of 1:08.77.
"It was a great trip, talk about a great horse. He just took me to the wire. Any rider probably could have won on him today. He was going at light speed today," said Gutierrez who officially becomes a journeyman jockey on Sunday after a stellar apprenticeship in which he won 109 races in 2018.
Do Share won for the first time in three starts since Mike Maker took over as trainer, and posted his first victory since the Gravesend on December 23, 2017 at the Big A. The Kentucky bred improved to 4-1-1 in seven career Aqueduct starts.
"He [Maker] gave me an opportunity to ride in Oklahoma for him and here," Gutierrez said. "My first open stakes for him was down in Gulfstream and now my first graded stakes win is for him here in New York, so I have to get a great Christmas present for Mr. Maker and his team."
Off at 5-1, Do Share returned $12.80 on a $2 win bet. His first career graded stakes win increased his lifetime earnings to $567,408.
M and A Racing's Life in Shambles, a Jason Servis trainee and Gold member of the New York Racing Association Starter Loyalty Program, finished a half-length in front of Silver member Bavaro for second.
"I had a good trip. I tried to let my horse fall back and make one run because I knew the pace was going to be hot," said Life in Shambles jockey Manny Franco "The winner was just too much the best. My horse gave me all he had, we were just second best today."
Skyler's Scramjet, a Silver member and the post-time mutuel favorite trained by Michelle Nevin, finished fourth. Syndergaard, Bon Raison and Fully Vested completed the order of finish.
Vino Rosso returns in style in Stymie
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, last seen finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers, made a successful return to the races under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez with a determined stretch run in the $150,000 Stymie, a one-turn mile for 4-year-olds and upward at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old Curlin chestnut enjoyed great success in 2018, winning the Grade 2 Wood Memorial ahead of finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
Vino Rosso went on to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont, won by Triple Crown champion Justify, before rallying to finish third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in July.
"It feels great to have him back," said co-owner Mike Repole. "He hasn't raced since the [Grade 1] Travers. He had a pretty busy 3-year-old campaign. Todd said he's been training great down at Palm Beach Downs and Johnny came up and they got the job done here today."
Returning from a more than seven-month layoff, Vino Rosso stalked the early pace of California Night, who marked the opening quarter-mile in 23.34 seconds and the half-mile in a swift 45.93 on the fast main track.
Stan the Man took an early run at California Night into the turn as Title Ready, with Jose Lezcano up, launched a menacing bid from off the pace with Sunny Ridge on their heels.
Vino Rosso found another gear as the field straightened to take command and withstood a serious test from Title Ready, earning a determined three-quarter length score in a final running time 1:35.27.
Title Ready completed the exacta with Shivermetimbers, Sunny Ridge, California Night, Stan the Man, Curlin's Honor and Hero's Welcome completing the order of finish.
Velazquez said he was pleased with Vino Rosso's return.
"He broke well. I was not going to take anything away and [stay with] what he does easy," said Velazquez. "I tried to get him back and put him behind horses and then he's going to take me a long way to get him going. That's the way he broke, and I left him where he's comfortable.
"He got away from the competition pretty easily," added Velazquez. "I was just worried I was a little too soon. He was pretty sharp today, we got a little close to the pace like I said, but he put in a good run."
Vino Rosso, bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther, banked $86,625 in victory while improving his record to four wins and two thirds from 10 career starts. He paid $5.80 to win as the 9-5 mutuel favorite.
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