Highly Motivated went off at even money in the $300,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Park on Saturday but never really challenged despite finishing third. Instead, it was 46/1 longshot Weyburn who ended up with 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
He nosed out 5/1 Crowded Trade after a thrilling stretch run where the two horses separated themselves slightly from the rest of the eight-horse field.
The Gotham was one of three big Kentucky Derby prep races that took place on Saturday, along with the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park. All the races are part of the Championship Series and awarded qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
A win that came out of nowhere?
There was really nothing in Weyburn's career performances that would have indicated he would make such a splash in his stakes race debut. He hadn't raced in three months since breaking his maiden at Aqueduct with a win on December 5. The Gotham set up nicely for him since the quirky colt didn't have to travel to participate in a Derby prep race.
Weyburn has yet to be nominated for the Triple Crown races, but with 50 points in the books, it's likely he can get into the Kentucky Derby field if his team decides to enter. The James Jenkins-trained colt came out of the gate from post position eight with the lead and settled into second place, working toward the rail.
He went stride for stride with Bob Baffert's Freedom Fighter until the second favorite at 2/1 odds began to fade, ultimately finishing fourth. Crowded Trade made a move into the stretch, and it looked like Weyburn might not be up to the challenge. Instead, he found more energy and surged ahead by enough to win $165,000 for Chiefswood Stable Limited.
Capo Kane went off at 11/1 and was the only entrant with any previous Kentucky Derby qualifying points. He never made much of a move, and jockey Dylan Davis just appeared to be saving the horse's energy as they entered the stretch well off the pace in sixth place.
Big day for the winner
In addition to the 50 points and nice piece of the purse, Weyburn paid $95.50 for the win, $26.80 on the place bet, and $8.70 for the show. Crowded Trade took home $60,000 for second place and paid $7.00 and $3.70. He also picked up 20 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The disappointing third-place finish for Highly Motivated earned $36,000 and paid $2.50. Freedom Fighter earned $18,000 and was awarded five qualifying points.
The next and final Derby prep race at Aqueduct will be the famed $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 3, which awards points at 100-40-20-10. Weyburn's next race is still undetermined, but it could be in the Wood, or he may end up going directly to the Kentucky Derby.
Triple Crown hopeful Brooklyn Strong is expected to compete in the Wood, as will many of the horses that failed to garner enough points in the Gotham to earn an Invitation to the Derby.