A trio of graded stakes winners are expected to head a deep field of Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday's 60th running of the Grade 3 Gotham, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as Aqueduct's primary prep for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6.
Mike Repole's Overanalyze, who last year won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 Remsen; Grade 2 Jerome hero Vyjack; and Honorable Dillon, who posted a half-length victory in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park last time out, could face as many as eight others, according to NYRA Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes.
Among those likely to join them in the starting gate are Escapefromreality, beaten a neck by Revolutionary in the Grade 3 Withers on February 2; Jerome runner-up and Withers third-place finisher Siete de Oros; and Ore Pass, most recently victorious in the Frank Whiteley Jr. at Laurel Park.
Also probable are Shadwell Stable's promising maiden winner Elnaawi; Sky Captain, second in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park last time out; West Hills Giant, most recently third in the Java Gold overnight stakes on February 10; Alcolite, third in an optional claimer for New York-breds two back on February 3; and the maiden Champion Boy, fifth in the Withers.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was counting his blessings on Sunday, six days in advance of Vyjack's expected start in the Gotham.
Vyjack, owned by David Wilkenfeld's Pick Six Racing, is unbeaten in three starts, all at Aqueduct. In his most recent outing, he contested the pace and wore down Siete de Oros to win the Jerome by a head on January 5. It was Rodriguez's biggest victory since making the transition from riding to training in 2010.
"I'm still dreaming. It's a very good feeling," Rodriguez said. "I'm very lucky to have him. The competition is going to get tougher, so he'll have to keep stepping up."
On Thursday Rudy Rodriguez sent out Vyjack for a six-furlong breeze over the inner track, with the gelded son of Into Mischief covering the distance in 1:15.
"He did it very good and did him everything we asked him to do," Rodriguez said. "It looks like he's coming into the race in good shape. He's going a little longer this time, so we had him breeze six furlongs and gallop out seven eighths."
Elnaawi, a half-brother to 2011 Grade 1 Cigar Mile and 2012 Grade 1 Woodward winner To Honor and Serve, will make his stakes debut in the Gotham, the Kiaran McLaughlin stable confirmed on Sunday.
After finishing third in a seven-furlong sprint in the mud in December, Elnaawi, a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, successfully stretched out to one mile to break his maiden by four lengths over a muddy inner track on January 12.
"We'll see how we fit in. He's training well and ran well, so here we are," assistant trainer Art Magnuson said.
Transparent, who broke his maiden by 5 3/4 lengths on January 26 in his sixth start, could represent Darley Stable in the Gotham.
"We're not sure. We'll talk to everyone involved," Magnuson said of Transparent's status for the Gotham. "He needs to take another step forward. They're lightly raced, and it's just a timing and experience thing."