Haikal, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, made a wide move on the three tiring leaders in deep stretch to win the Grade 2, $300,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.
Knicks Go broke well and got the lead, but Much Better also wanted to get to the front and the paired dueled through a sizzling 1/4 mile in 22.36. As they hit the 1/2 mile marker, Much Better had a 4 length lead through a 1/2 mile of 44.42, but the early fractions would eventually take their toll.
As they straightened for home, Much Better started to shorten stride and Mind Control advanced on the rail to engage him. Meanwhile, Instagrand made a 4- wide move and rallied to engage the leaders, and even at the 1/16 pole, it looked like one of those three would prevail.
But Haikal wheeled to the outside and made a big move in the middle of the racetrack to blow past the leaders and win easily by a length. Mind Control held second and somehow, Instagrand eked out third. Much Better ran a very ambitious race and finished fourth.
Trained by Kiaren McLaughlin, Haikal covered the mile in 1:35.63 and paid $10.80 to win. The connections haven’t decided where he’ll show up next but with 50 fresh Kentucky Derby points we know where he’ll be on May 4.
No one could argue that the early pace aided Haikal but neither could one dispute this fellow put it in gear when it counted. Favorite Instagrand had no choice but to come off the pace and was just plain out of his element. He did impress me in even making a late bid and even more to hold third place, but he never really seemed comfortable. One would think he had a decent outing after 7-months off.
Early speedball, Knicks Go, as well as Not That Brady were far back late in the race and were basically eased across the wire.