There is a reason that odds-on betting choices are often described as “prohibitive” favorites — their odds prohibit one from making a simple win wager.
In Saturday’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, 4-El Areeb is a shining example of a prohibitive favorite, as he is, both on paper and to the untrained eye, easily the best in the field of ten.
Going 1 1/16 miles on the Ozone Park, New York inner track, the Gotham is another 85-point Derby prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. El Areeb will most likely take the 50 points awarded for winning the Gotham, leaving 20 points to the second-place finisher, ten to the show horse and five points to the fourth-place finisher.
Scheduled for 4:50 p.m. ET, the Gotham (race 8) appears to have three contenders for second-place behind El Areeb, three marginal entries who could surprise in the exacta, and three horses that don’t really seem to have a chance to compete in this particular race.
So the question is: Which colt will finish second to El Areeb in the Gotham?
Three horses that don’t project to have a shot finishing in the top half of the field, let alone in the second spot, are 2-Gaetano, 3-Miggsy, and 5-Glennrichment.
Gaetano will be making his eleventh start since late July of last year, which isn’t exactly the blueprint of how to construct a successful Derby prep contender. He broke his maiden in his sixth try in a $20k maiden claiming race at Parx in November and won against winners last out in allowance company (also at Parx). There aren’t many scenarios in which this one finishes in the exacta.
Miggsy and Glennrichment finished a nose apart in a $60k maiden special weight race last out on the inner track here at the same distance as Saturday’s Gotham, so they check the “have they run at this track?” and “have they run at this distance?” boxes on the basic handicapping checklist. Although both colts are trained by the hot Rudy Rodriguez, who has won four of nine races with a place and a show over the past week (as of this writing), they will be running against four horses that have beaten winners and four that have run in graded stakes company. I think they are outclassed here.
1-J Boys Echo, 7-Apartfromthecrowd and 8-So Conflated are marginal contenders to finish second behind El Areeb in the Gotham.
J Boys Echo is graded stakes-placed in two graded stakes attempts, finishing third in the Grade III Withers last out. Both El Areeb and True Timber (who finished first and second in the Withers) will also be in the gate for the Gotham. J Boys Echo has shown a propensity to save his best running for last, which is a nice trait to have if he can be put in a position to avoid tiring runners late. His closing kick, the fact that he’s trying Saturday’s distance for a race-high fourth time and the fact that’s he’s already tried the inner track at Aqueduct precludes him from being out of the realm of possibility for hitting the board. If he finishes second to El Areeb, the exacta will pay well.
Apartfromthecrowd finished a distant fifth in the Withers and loses jockey Irad Ortiz, who is one of the top riders in New York. The negative jockey change and the lower-end speed figures for this one don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but he’s won once in two tries at both the distance as well as the Aqueduct inner dirt, so he’s not a toss, completely, although he’s a better option underneath in trifectas than exactas.
So Conflated is owned, trained and ridden by some horsemen who have had about as much success as one can have in thoroughbred horse racing. The connections of Kentucky Derby winners I’ll Have Another and Nyquist opted to run So Conflated in the Gotham after scratching from the Grade II Risen Star at the Fair Grounds last weekend — reportedly due to the draw.
While karma (it seems) has placed this horse outside again, the fact that So Conflated isn’t staying out West more than likely tells a bit more of the story. He’s probably not a top-tier Derby contender, so finding a “soft” spot for him has been a labor of love. A stakes winner after taking the non-graded California Derby on a synthetic surface at Golden Gate last out, he’s the best of the “marginal” lot. An El Areeb/So Conflated ice-cold exacta would be rewarding.
The three horses with the best chance of finishing behind El Areeb in the Gotham are 6-True Timber, 9-Cloud Computing and 10-Action Everyday.
True Timber may run right with El Areeb near the front of this race with an honest projected pace. Those two may be joined by Miggsy and Action Everyday in the first tier of horses heading into the first of two turns.
True Timber progressed well between his last out and two starts back, which is sometimes a red flag indicating a “bounce” is possible. However, his work tab (bullet work at Belmont on Feb. 24 going four furlongs) seems to quell any concerns of a tired horse.
Having hit the board in both graded stakes starts, as well as running right with El Areeb last out are all positive signs. The fact that he’s making his third try at the 1 1/16-mile distance is also promising. For fans of large show bets, this one is probably the best shot to hit the board, after El Areeb. He’s a major contender for the second prize.
Cloud Computing was unraced as a two-year-old, but won his debut last out at this track, albeit in a six-furlong maiden special weight race. Trained by one of the best conditioners (Chad Brown) America has to offer and ridden by a jockey (Manuel Franco) who’s been hot of late is a good start. The speed figure from his maiden score was impressive, with only Action Everyday being able to match his 82 Beyer Speed Figure among the debut races of these Gotham runners (El Areeb garnered a 45 in his first start).
Although it’s yet to be seen what caliber of horses Cloud Computing beat in his debut, he looked impressive enough as the post-time favorite. He has a better shot than most in this race to finish right behind El Areeb.
Action Everyday is a perfect two-for-two in his career, but is trying both Aqueduct and the race distance for the first time. This colt, by trendy sire The Factor and trained by Todd Pletcher, won as a very heavy favorite in his first start against winners following a four-length victory in his debut — both at Tampa Bay.
Although the chances of this one winning in his first stakes action is pushing the boundaries of reason, being second-best does not. He’s a contender and an El Areeb/Action Everyday straight exacta could produce a nice payoff.
While fully admitting that I’m not 100 percent sure he won’t suffer a “bounce,” my top choice behind El Areeb in the Gotham is True Timber. He is the classiest of the three horses I tabbed as contenders, has faced El Areeb twice before, and isn’t stretching-out in distance. I’ll be playing a straight 4-6 exacta, hoping to get paid at least $10 on a $2 bet.
Note: For those looking for more betting action, I’d also suggest a $2 Daily Double wager starting in Aqueduct’s seventh race, using 1A-Story to Tell with 4-El Areeb.