Put away for the season after two authoritative victories to start his career last summer, Instagrand gets back to work Saturday in the $300,000 Gotham (G3), a one-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep at Aqueduct.
Winner on debut at Los Alamitos by 10 lengths in June, Instagrand won by approximately the same margin in the six-furlong Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar in his next start for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. It was decided soon after that Instagrand would be put away for the rest of the season to prepare for a three-year-old campaign.
"We think we have him prepared (for stretching out in distance)," Hollendorfer said. "We're very happy to have Javier Castellano riding. I feel like our horse has speed and I think he can also rate if we have to."
While Instagrand has yet to earn any Kentucky Derby qualifying points, rivals Knicks Go and Mind Control have both done so. Knicks Go won the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at 70-1 and placed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at 40-1 last fall, but ran up the track in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Sam F. Davis (G3) in his last two starts.
"I think he did need that last race, especially on that Tampa track which can be a little tiring at times," trainer Ben Colebrook said. "I think he'll like the configuration (at Aqueduct) but the surface is a question mark. He has tactical speed which will help him. Maybe now that he's in a race where he's not the favorite, like the last two, maybe he'll go back to the old Knicks Go."
Mind Control didn't earn any points by winning the Hopeful (G1) or finishing unplaced in the Juvenile, but earned 10 when registered a season-opening win in the $150,000 Jerome on New Year's Day over the Gotham track and distance.
"He's going into this race better than he went into the Jerome in terms of
maturity and filling out. He's really starting to put the muscle on in the right
places," trainer Gregory Sacco said.
Front-running Not That Brady shortens up a furlongs after finishing a game second in the Withers (G3) last month. Stretching out from seven panels is Haikal, photo-finish winner of the $150,000 Jimmy Winkfield last time, while Bob Baffert sends in stakes-placed allowance winner Much Better. The field is rounded out by Tikhvin Flew and Family Biz.
The Gotham awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 top the top four finishers, with the winner virtually assured of earning enough points to earn a Derby starting position. The Gotham can be watched and wagered on at TwinSpires.com.