OZONE PARK, N.Y. - So much to prove, so little time.
With just eight weeks remaining until the Kentucky Derby, there is little margin for error if any of the 10 3-year-old colts entered in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes is to prove himself a legitimate contender. Eight of the 10 - including the undefeated Giant Moon - will be making their graded stakes debut, and three will be making their first start around two turns.
Visionaire is the only member of the Gotham field to have done both, finishing third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Pyro, despite a perfect trip in the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Trainer Michael Matz skipped a rematch with Pyro in Saturday's Louisiana Derby for this seemingly easier spot, one made more difficult when Visionaire landed in post 10.
"I don't think there's a Pyro in there; I don't know,'' Matz said from Florida before the draw. "It looks like he fits in there. Hopefully, he'll take to the track up in New York.''
Visionaire, a son of Grand Slam, has proven adaptable to any pace scenario, but may have to prove himself over a wet track. Heavy rains are forecast for Saturday.
"I think he's one of those types that will try the best he can no matter what the footing,'' Matz said. "If the weather comes up that way we'll just have to deal with it. If it's too bad, we always have the Rebel [March 15 at Oaklawn] to fall back on.''
Giant Moon has won all four of his races, including the Count Fleet on Jan. 5. Trainer Richard Schosberg kept Giant Moon out of the Whirlaway to point for this, but noted the colt did not sit idle, working seven times.
"It was good for him to freshen up, and he had some really good breezes,'' he said.
Saratoga Russell, Holidaze, and Roman Emperor head the challengers to the top two. Saratoga Russell romped in the slop in a six-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream, and will now try and carry his speed around two turns.
Holidaze, one of three entered by Todd Pletcher, made the jump from one to two turns with a good-looking allowance win over the inner track. Roman Emperor was a hard-luck second to Barrier Reef in the Whirlaway after running third behind Giant Moon in the Count Fleet.