It takes a mighty good horse to handle the cold winter weather at Aqueduct, compete in the Gotham (G3), and later land in the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. How good, you ask? Considering immortal Triple Crown winner Secretariat is the only Gotham participant to ever win the Kentucky Derby, maybe the feat requires a superstar.
Chalk it up to the Secretariat Curse, or just plain bad luck, but despite producing an abundance of Derby starters—44 between 1980 and 2019—few Gotham alumni have managed to vie for victory on the first Saturday in May.
That’s not to say the Gotham isn’t a quality race. Quite to the contrary, the roster of winners includes some of racing’s all-time greats. In addition to Secretariat, who defied history to complete the Gotham/Derby double in 1973, the 1-mile race has been won by champions Native Dancer (1953), Jaipur (1962), Dr. Fager (1967), Easy Goer (1989), and Lure (1992). Easy Goer’s triumph was particularly vivid as he won by 13 lengths in the blazing time of 1:32.40, establishing a stakes record.
However, this rich history hasn’t translated to success for Gotham participants on the first Saturday in May. Gotham winners Native Dancer, General Assembly (1979), Easy Goer, and Aptitude (2000) all finished second in the Kentucky Derby, but other highlights have been few and far between. During the 40-year period from 1980 through 2019, just two Gotham starters managed to hit the board at Churchill Downs.
But perhaps the Gotham is due for a renaissance. The race has offered 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner since 2013, and with this lofty prize in tow, a string of high-profile winners could be just around the corner.
By J. Keeler Johnson