Haikal gets the call in the Gotham

New York’s road to the Kentucky Derby continues this Saturday with the Grade III, $300,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. A field of eight, led by the highly-regarded INSTAGRAND, will be tested over one mile on the main oval. The Gotham awards 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, down to five for running fourth. Post time for the Gotham, Race 10 of 11 on a card chock-full of stakes, is 5:09 p.m. EST.

#6 INSTAGRAND (even-money, morning-line favorite) could prove to be a bad bet in the Gotham. He hasn’t raced since August’s Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar due to injury, though he was an eye-catching 10-length victor. The naturally-speedy California invader will likely be challenged for the early lead by #7 NOT THAT BRADY (5-1), along with (potentially) #3 MIND CONTROL (9-2), #4 MUCH BETTER (10-1) and #8 TIKHVIN FLEW (12-1). Additionally, INSTAGRAND will be asked to go a 1/4-mile further than he ever as before.

#5 HAIKAL (6-1) will also be running in a route event for the first time. However, he was sharp in victory in last month’s seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes over this course. HAIKAL also prefers to rally from off the pace, which gives him a tremendous tactical edge under Rajiv Maragh. Kiaran McLaughlin has HAIKAL, a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Takaful, training well for the Gotham. He may not have the pedigree for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, but HAIKAL looks like a solid value play on Saturday.

NOT THAT BRADY could secure a minor share in the Gotham. He was a game second in last month’s 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. The cutback should help NOT THAT BRADY and Reylu Gutierrez.

TIKHVIN FLEW was just two lengths behind HAIKAL when last seen in the Jimmy Winkfield. The lightly-raced Steve Asmussen trainee drew a good post for his preferred stalking tactics. Dylan Davis takes the reins for the first time.

The play: $10 win 5

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