Longshot Weyburn makes impressive seasonal bow to win G3 Gotham in thrilling stretch duel

March 7, 2021

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Chiefswood Stables’ Weyburn had plenty of built in excuses to wilt in the stretch when making both his stakes – and 3-year-old— debut on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. But Weyburn proved his mettle in the longest race of his young career, running eye-to-eye with Crowded Trade in a thrilling duel before edging his rival by a nose to win the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham for sophomores going a one-turn mile as a 46-1 longshot.

Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Weyburn raced three times as a juvenile, breaking his maiden in his last start on December 5 at the Big A. The Pioneerof the Nile colt entered his seasonal bow from a three-month layoff after scratching from a scheduled start in the Jimmy Winkfield on January 31 due to a foot abscess. The dark bay colt proved resilient competing at one mile for the first time by earning 50 qualifying points towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

The 69th running of the Gotham, which offered 50-20-10-5 points to the top-four finishers as a “Run for the Roses” prep, saw Hall of Famer and two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert ship in Freedom Fighter, and the California shipper led the eight-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.29 seconds, the half in 48.03 and three-quarters in 1:12.85 on the fast main track.

Jockey Manny Franco kept Freedom Fighter near the rail out of the turn, but the pacesetter tired as Weyburn, who exited from the outermost post with Trevor McCarthy in the irons for the first time, overtook him from the outside.

Weyburn then established position on the inside as the Chad Brown-trained Crowded Trade made a furious bid from his outside. The duo linked up in the final furlong, with Weyburn gaining the slight edge in the final jumps to hit the wire in 1:38.70.

“We thought he would like the distance, ultimately,” said Jerkens, who won his first Gotham. His father, the late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, won the 1992 Gotham with Devil His Due. “His last two works were sensational. He went three-quarters in 1:13 and galloped out in 26 and change. I didn’t mean for him to go that fast. But you don’t worry about that when they’re fresh and strong. He was going to have to do something like that to win a race like this. We had to ask him for something in the morning and replicate it in the afternoon.”

Weyburn returned an impressive $95.50 on a $2 win wager. The Ontario bred more than tripled his career earnings to $227,520.

“He got into a really good groove down the backside and the pace wasn’t too hot,” McCarthy said. “He’s a big, solid horse and I just wanted to get him rolling early. I did like Bob’s horse [Freedom Fighter] today, so I wanted to put pressure on him, too.

“He switched leads in that last eighth and that made him resurge,” McCarthy added. “He was really aggressive and he had a lot of fight in him.”

Jerkens left open the possibility of running in the nine-furlong Grade 2, $750,0000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 where 100-40-20-10 qualifying points will be up for grabs.

“We’ll just take this all in. Of course it’s a logical spot,” Jerkens said. “It’s right here. He’s kind of a quirky horse. The pony man takes him every morning because he’s tough and wants to wheel. He’s still a little kid. He doesn’t trust everybody. This is just really satisfying because it’s been a tough winter and we loved him from day one. He didn’t run first out and we didn’t know what to think. Thank God we stuck to our guns. I think he’ll end up being a decent colt.”

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Sunday Affair, Weyburn is a half-brother to the versatile multiple graded stakes-winner Yorkton, who now stands at Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm in Kentucky.

“His half-brother Yorkton was a fighter and Nipigon, his other half-brother, was a real fighter, too,” said Rob Landry, a retired Canadian Hall of Fame rider and general manager for Chiefswood Stables. “He looked like he really dug in hard in the stretch when it counted. He had every reason to give up.”

Although not Triple Crown nominated, Landry said Weyburn will more than likely be supplemented.

“We don’t want to get too excited. We haven’t nominated him to the Triple Crown because we were a little bit behind, but that doesn’t stop us from supplementing him,” said Landry. “If he earns his way there, he’ll get to run there. There’s still a long way to go.”

Crowded Trade, a one-length debut winner on January 28 at Aqueduct, bested stablemate and 4-5 favorite Highly Motivated by 1 3/4 lengths as Brown trained two-thirds of the trifecta. Both are owned by Klaravich Stables.

“I thought I had it for a second and then I looked over at Trevor and I saw he had a nose in front,” said Crowded Trade rider Eric Cancel. “The horse ran great. Stretching out, I think the last sixteenth got to him a little bit, but other than that, he ran awesome.”

Added Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who piloted Highly Motivated who was making his first appearance since winning the Nyquist on November 6 at Keeneland: “You have to use him a little bit to put him in position, but I don’t have any complaints today. I’m satisfied with how he ran. Most of the horses today that won have been close to the pace.

“He hasn’t run since four months ago and I didn’t want to squeeze him out of the gate and put him too close to the pace,” continued Castellano. “He finished really well today. Unfortunately, the other horses got the jump and the track is playing to speed a little bit. I like the way he finished coming from behind. He had a lot of dirt in the face and it was a good education for the horse to move forward in the future.”

Freedom Fighter picked up the five Derby points for his fourth-place finish. Making his third start, Freedom Fighter was coming off a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 San Vicente in February at Santa Anita Park.

The Reds, Capo Kane, Wipe the Slate and Atlantic Road completed the order of finish.

The Gotham Replay

Live racing resumes Sunday at Aqueduct with an eight-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Biogio’s Rose, a one-turn mile for state-bred fillies and mares 4-years-old and up in Race 7. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

Aqueduct Press Release

Photo: Weyburn (#8 on the rail) battles Crowded Trade to a photo finish. (NYRA/Coglianese)

@Tracking_Trips @jonathanstettin the pick 4 X 2 and the trifecta X2 in the classic...thanks for teaching me to approach races better.

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