Did a Favorable Pace Setup Help Enticed in the Gotham Stakes?
If you’re looking for the definition of a race that is “fast early, slow late,” check out the results of the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) on March 10th at Aqueduct.From start to finish, the one-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race got slower with every quarter-mile fraction, and while this isn’t surprising for a slow track like Aqueduct, it was the extent of slowdown that really caught my eye.
Before diving into an analysis of the pace, I should note that the victorious Enticed did turn in an eye-catching performance. Winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) last November against a tough field, Enticed finished fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream last month while racing in an uncomfortable pocket behind the leaders, but an outside draw seemed to make all the difference in the Gotham. This time around, Enticed—racing wide throughout the race—settled about three lengths off the early pace before launching a sustained rally to reel in the front-running Old Time Revival and win going away by 2 ¾ lengths.
But while Enticed’s performance was visually eye-catching, it’s hard to deny that he was aided to an extent by the way the race unfolded. The first two quarter-mile fractions were timed in :23.14 and :23.29, resulting in an opening half-mile in :46.43. In sharp contrast, the last two quarte-mile fractions were timed in :25.34 and :26.47, resulting in a final half-mile in :51.81, nearly five seconds slower than the first half.
These fractions had a predictable impact on the order of finish. Old Time Revival was the only pacesetter to be involved at the finish, while late runners took advantage of the pace to rally and finish first, third, fourth, and fifth. Under the circumstances, I was quite impressed by Old Time Revival’s performance, especially since he finished four lengths in front of the third-place finisher Free Drop Billy, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall.
As for Enticed, he seems to be demonstrating a clear preference for racing outside of horses, which could be something to keep in mind down the road. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Enticed will use the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct for his final pre-Derby prep race, and it will be interesting to see if he is joined by Old Time Revival.