02/28/2013 4:09PM

Gotham Stakes: Overanalyze gets started on Kentucky Derby trail


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – On the road to the Kentucky Derby, Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct shapes up as a starting point for Overanalyze and a proving ground for his 11 rivals.

Overanalyze is one of just two graded stakes winners in the field, having ended his 2-year-old season with a nose victory in the Grade 2 Remsen over Aqueduct’s main track last Nov. 24, his last start.

Vyjack heads the list of challengers, having won all three of his starts including the Grade 2 Jerome on Jan. 5 over Aqueduct’s inner track. He skipped the Withers on Feb. 2 to await this spot. Withers winner Revolutionary is in south Florida, but Withers second-through-fifth-place finishers Escapefromreality, Siete de Oros, Amerigo Vespucci, and the maiden Champion Boy have returned.

Add in shippers Sky Captain and Ore Pass as well as a trio of maiden winners from Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn –Transparent, Now and Then, and Elnaawi – and the New York-bred stakes winner West Hills Giant and you have a pretty diverse cast.

The Gotham, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track, will go as race 10 on an 11-race program that also includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool at six furlongs and the Grade  2, $200,000 Top Flight for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

[GOTHAM STAKES: Get PPs, watch video handicapping previews]

The Gotham offers 85 qualifying points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

By virtue of his victory in the Remsen, Overanalyze has 10 points to get into the Derby. Overanalyze, trained by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole – the same connections as 2011 Gotham winner Stay Thirsty – arrived Wednesday afternoon from south Florida, where he has been working regularly since Jan. 13.

“He’s grown up a bit, he’s filled out a bit, he’s physically improved, he’s training well,” Pletcher said by phone. “We’ve had this race circled on the calendar for a long time. Thankfully, everything has gone according to plan until they drew the post positions.”

Overanalyze drew post 12 for the Gotham, which has a short run into the first turn. Hansen won last year’s Gotham from post 12 in a 13-horse field.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

“The way I look at it is I’ve had horses get really good trips from bad post positions and really bad trips from good post positions,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes, it works out. The horse is pretty professional away from the starting gate; we got Johnny [Velazquez] on board who knows how to get in the right position into the first turn.”

At 123 pounds, Overanalyze is co-highweight with Vyjack, who is undefeated in three starts for David Wilkenfeld’s Pick Six Racing and trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

Vyjack passed his first two-turn test when he held off Siete de Oros to win the Jerome by a neck. In the race, Vyjack was a bit headstrong and attempted to bear out under Cornelio Velasquez. Wilkenfeld has made a switch to Joel Rosario, while Rodriguez has been attempting to get Vyjack to relax in the mornings.

“In the mornings, we try to do the best we can, but in the race it’s different,” Rodriguez said. “When they come out of the gate, it’s a different kind of game, but he’s doing everything we ask of him.”

With several sprinters stretching out in this race, it would appear Rosario could get Vyjack behind horses, but Rodriguez said he will leave the tactics up to the jockey.

“If they give him the lead, I think he’ll be good on the lead,” Rodriguez said. “If they don’t, I think he can sit.”

Escapefromreality was beaten a neck by Revolutionary in the Grade  3 Withers last month while finishing nearly two lengths clear of the rest of the field. It was an encouraging effort from the New York-bred son of Read the Footnotes, who was coming out of two sprints.

“He’s training very well, he’s doing everything we’ve asked of him going into this race,” trainer Dominick Schettino said. “I hope he runs very well.”

Journeyman David Cohen replaces apprentice Jose Ortiz on Escapefromreality, who breaks from post 2.

Transparent, Now and Then, and Elnaawi are extremely well-bred horses coming out of maiden wins into graded company for the McLaughlin barn. Now and Then was entered for an allowance race Sunday that failed to fill. He is still questionable to run Saturday.

Transparent, a son of Bernardini, has run well in two starts since getting blinkers. Jockey Junior Alvarado suggested the equipment when Transparent finished fourth behind Orb last November. Transparent won a maiden race here by 5  3/4 lengths on Jan. 26, despite being carried out extremely wide when another horse bolted entering the backstretch.

Elnaawi, a half-brother to Grade  1 winner To Honor and Serve, comes off a four-length maiden win in his last start. McLaughlin had him entered in a first-level allowance race Feb. 9, but that card was canceled due to snow.

“He’s quite a talented horse, very well bred, but this is a big step up,” McLaughlin said.

Mark Casse scratched Sky Captain from last weekend’s Fountain of Youth after his horse drew an outside post. Also, Casse didn’t think his horse cared too much for the Gulfstream surface after finishing fifth in a sprint Dec. 15 and second in a route Jan. 26.

Casse said that Sky Captain “trains as good as any horse I’ve ever trained,” but he has yet to put it all together in the afternoons. Miguel Mena rides.

Siete de Oros was third in the Withers after dueling on the early lead from the inside. Saturday, he will be reunited with Angel Arroyo.

Amerigo Vespucci was fourth in the Withers after a wide trip and getting bumped at the three-sixteenths pole.

Ore Pass has won 2 of 3 starts and makes his two-turn debut after winning the Frank Whitely Stakes at Laurel going seven furlongs Jan.  19.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]