It is stakes Saturday across the country with multiple events at multiple race tracks. This is a prep day on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. There are three tracks to turn your attention to if you have some interest in the Kentucky Derby. The smallest of the three, the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (Gr. 3) at Aqueduct Racetrack comes with 85 points up for grabs, 50 points going to the winning team. There are two other events with the same point format, the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Gr. 2) at Tampa Bay Downs and $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (Gr. 2) at Santa Anita Park. Also at Santa Anita Park on Saturday are the only two Grade 1 events today, the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (Gr. 1) and $400,000 Santa Anita Handicap (Gr. 1).
We will get started at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday in Queens. The Gotham Stakes looks like it is shaping up to be a must-watch event. The stakes are high, with the winner awarded 50 points and 20 points going to 2nd. There are also three more stakes races at Aqueduct on Saturday. Head below for our free Aqueduct Racetrack selections and Gotham Stakes pick for March 6, 2021.
Post Time: 12:50 p.m. EST
Off we go to Aqueduct Racetrack with the opener in Race 1 on Saturday afternoon. Six horses are expected to arrive at the gate for a mile of racing for a $70,000 purse. The likes of Epona’s Dream and Destinationwnrscir should be involved in the battle in the stretch. Epona’s Dream is winless in three attempts, going 5th, 3rd, 4th three three events.
In her best performance, Epona’s Dream showed 3rd on January 10 for a $70,000 purse. She followed up for 4th in her most recent event on February 14. Epona’s Dream finished 4th in another $70,000 assignment. She brushed the gate to start and never really looked comfortable in that race. More is expected out of Epona’s Dream. This should be a bit easier against this competition Saturday, though.
Destinationwnrscir is winless in three attempts as well, but has been running more smoothly. She has finished 3rd, 4th, 2nd through her career. Destinationwnrscir is coming off the best performance of her career, placing 2nd behind Vallarand by ¾ lengths. That was in a $70,000 assignment, and an effort that would have been more than enough for a victory in this race on Saturday. A similar performance likely yields around a 3 length win for Destinationwnrscir. That’s where I’m going in Race 1.
Post Time: 2:56 p.m. EST
This fifth event at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday is a $35,000 event on the dirt covering a mile. Race 5 features nine runners, with Another Shot and Scotto likely in the fray down the stretch. Another Shot has finished 6th, 4th, 3rd, 8th, 2nd in his career. He came along nicely in his most recent outing, placing 2nd behind Bellamy Dolce by 1 ¾ lengths in a $35,000 event.
It was a nice try and there were signs of improvement from Another Shot in that assignment. If Another Shot can continue moving forward and improving, then a win shouldn’t be too far away for Another Shot on Saturday. Expect Scotto showed massive strides forward after finishing 11th as a rookie on December 12. Scotto was 11th on December 12 as a first-time runner in a $43,000 assignment and was never a factor.
In Scotto’s next performance, he placed 2nd behind Writer’s Regret by 4 lengths in a $35,000 event. Along with the class drop, there was a noticeable improvement in form in that race. Against this beatable field on Saturday, it’s hard to see a similar performance doing Scotto wrong in Race 5. Scotto should be able to find a way into the winner’s circle given his recent form.
Race 9 – Gotham Stakes
Post Time: 5:07 p.m. EST
At least one horse in this race is likely going to be in the Kentucky Derby. A lot can change between now and May, but a 50-point win should be good for a ticket to the Derby. Bob Baffert’s Freedom Fighter and Chad Brown’s Highly Motivated are likely going to battle in the stretch for the 50 points in the Gotham Stakes (Gr. 3).
Freedom Fighter is a one-time winner in two outings, going 1st and 2nd in a couple of appearances. As a first-time runner, Freedom Fighter won as a rookie on August 1 to cut down Dixie’s Two Stents by a head in a $55,000 event. That was probably closer than Baffert was hoping for, but it was nevertheless a presentable performance and good debut.
The young colt made his stakes debut on February 6 in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (Gr. 2). He ran well, better than his first race despite losing. Freedom Fighter lost by a half length behind the talented Concert Tour after giving way late in the stretch. Highly Motivated will provide Freedom Fighter with a big challenge.
Highly Motivated is a two-time winner in three appearances. The $240,000 colt placed 2nd as a rookie in a $72,000 event behind Founder by a neck. That was a promising start, and Highly Motivated came back to win back-to-back outings. He defeated Known Agenda by 1 ¾ lengths as the betting favorite on September 27 in a $63,000 assignment.
In his stakes debut on November 6, Highly Motivated topped Quick Tempo by 4 ¼ lengths in the $125,000 Nyquist Stakes. With Roderick and Quick Tempo dueling, Highly Motivated showed excellent kick in the final stretch run to overtake both of them and draw off for an easy win. It was a perfectly timed race by Javier Castellano. Highly Motivated could have easily ran for another furlong, and had enough in the tank to smash the competition in that race. A hat-trick and win in this $300,000 prep race looks probable.