A Highly Motivated Favorite in Gotham at Aqueduct

Aqueduct Gotham

A field of eight line up in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct (Photo credit: Bigstock.com).

A field of eight will go in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) including the Chad Brown trained Highly Motivated, the 8-5 morning line favorite.

The Gotham is one of three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races on tap on Saturday. The other two are the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs and the $300,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. Each of the three races offers up 50-20-10-5 points toward entry into the Kentucky Derby.

The Brown trainee makes his first start since winning the Nyquist at Keeneland on Nov. 6. Javier Castellano is up to ride from Florida and the colt will break from the three post.

The colt has worked sharply since his last outing and looks ready for his three-year-old debut and is currently listed at 25-1 in the latest early Kentucky Derby odds.

Highly Motivated Wins Nyquist at Keeneland

“Every work of his has been an improvement,” Brown said. “His last couple in particular have been very strong works. We rested him a bit and brought him back slowly. We’re ready to get his 3-year-old campaign underway.”

Brown won the Gotham in 2016 with Shagaf, who was coming off an allowance win at Gulfstream Park.

Among his foes is the Bob Baffert trained Freedom Fighter (5-2), who ran second to his stablemate Concert Tour in the San Vicente (G2) in his stakes debut on Feb. 8.

“He ran a pretty courageous race after some time off to finish second to Concert Tour, who I think is a nice horse,” Baffert said. “I wanted to keep him one turn for now. I’m not sure what his distance limitations are going to be right now, but I think the Gotham is a good step up going from seven-eighths to a mile. He should be ready for that.”

The Gotham is one of four stakes on the 10-race card at the Big A today. The supporting stakes are the $125,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G2) and the $250,000 Busher Invitational.

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Let’s head out to Aqueduct for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Free Horse PIcks

Aqueduct Race 9 The Gotham G3 (5:07 ET)

3 Highly Motivated   8-5

4 Wipe the Slate   6-1

7 Freedom Fighter   5-2

6 Capo Kane   5-1

Highly Motivated

The Brown trainee makes his three-year-old debut here, his first outing since an impressive victory in the Nyquist last November at Keeneland going 6 ½ furlongs. The colt tracked the early pace and finished strongly to draw away to win by 4 ¼ lengths earning a solid figure. Three he beat that day came back to win next out including the runner up Quick Tempo who won the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds and the fifth-place finisher Sir Wellington who won the Louisiana Juvenile. Fourth place finisher Awesome Gerry came back to run second and third in stakes company and the third-place finisher Roderick was a big winner versus non-conditioned allowance foes on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs. The $240,000 Keeneland purchase should only get better with more ground. He is by Into Mischief out of the stakes winner Strong Incentive ($123,568). The barn is 28% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a 61–180-day break. The colt should get a good trip sitting off what should be a sharp early pace.

Wipe the Slate

This guy was not away cleanly last out in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in his stakes debut. He chased a sharp early pace and faded to finish a well beaten sixth. O’Neill takes the blinkers off and it looks as if a one turn mile here may suit him. He broke his maiden two back going seven furlongs in his second career start. The colt is by Nyquist out of a stakes placed Zensational mare. Carmouche picks up the call and this guy figures to bounce back with a better effort and may end up a fair price.

Freedom Fighter

This colt set the early fractions and could not hold off his stablemate Concert Tour last out in a runner up finish in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita. It was his first start off a six-month break, his maiden breaker coming at Del Mar in his debut last August. The colt has worked sharply since his last effort and looks like a good fit here. The colt is by Violence out of the stakes winner Canadian Ballet ($619,802) who was best sprinting on turf. This guy is likely not a Derby candidate, but a mile should be within his scope.


WIN: Highly Motivated to win at 8-5 or better.

EXACTA: 3 / 4,6,7 and 3,4 / 3,4,7


NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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