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2022 Gotham Stakes Replay And Reaction | Morello Rages; New Kentucky Derby Threat?
Credit: NYRA / Joe Labozzetta

2022 Gotham Stakes Replay And Reaction | Morello Rages; New Kentucky Derby Threat?

The Racing Dudes team reacts to Morello winning Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, then discuss who they like moving forward on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, including any potential longshots. Join our replay watch-along and let us know your thoughts about the race in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor and Diamond T Racing’s Morello kept a spotless record intact when strolling to an effortless 4 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, at Aqueduct Racetrack. The one-turn mile for sophomores offered 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and confidently ridden by Jose Lezcano, Morello earned the maximum points while stretching out to one mile for the first time. Unbeaten in three starts, all at Aqueduct, by a combined 13 3/4 lengths, Morello entered off a triumphant stakes debut in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on February 6, over two months following a six-furlong debut win.

Breaking from post 9, Morello was forwardly placed down the backstretch in second to the outside of two-time winner Dean’s List, who led the 10-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.47 seconds over the fast main track.

Approaching the far turn through a half in 47.77 seconds, Dean’s List remained in command as Morello inched his way closer to the pacesetter. But Manny Franco, aboard Dean’s List, began getting busy aboard his charge past the quarter pole while Lezcano remained still on Morello.

In mid-stretch, Morello swept past Dean’s List under little coaxing and extended to an in-hand victory in a final time of 1:39.28. Dean’s List held second by one length over fellow Todd Pletcher-trainee Golden Code.

Life Is Great, Glider, Runninsonofagun, Fromanothamutha, Noneedtoworry, Bold Journey and Rockefeller completed the order of finish.

“He’s a very nice horse who has been doing everything right. He’s one of the nicer horses I’ve ridden in the last three years,” said Lezcano, who was aboard Morello for all three starts. “I never even touched him with the whip. You ask him a little bit and he takes off – it’s a good thing. I’ve ridden some good horses and he’s showed me he’s one of those.”

Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds said he was highly impressed with the way his horse won.

“We thought there would be a little bit quicker of a pace in the race, so we were a little concerned about that, but he just does it so professionally,” Lyon said. “When he came around the turn, I just had a feeling because of how professional he is that he would make us proud. Galloping past the wire, the way he did it, we’re starting to think about the first Saturday in May at this point. I’ll let Toby [Sheets, assistant to Asmussen] and Steve make that decision but this group – you saw us celebrating – we’re thinking about that.”

The next local Kentucky Derby qualifier is the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial [100-40-20-10] going nine furlongs on April 9. While Lyon was non-committal to the horse’s next start, he expressed no concern with any added distance.

“He had to use a little more of the tank today and use another gear, but he showed us that he’s got it,” Lyon said. “I don’t want to look past this race – we want to celebrate this – but we’re thinking he can go longer. I don’t know how long he could go but we’re all from Saratoga and we’d certainly want to win the Travers. I want that canoe more than I want the Kentucky Derby trophy – but I’ll take that one, too.

“Steve is the winningest trainer in North American history, so we’ll let him make the call and tell us where to go,” Lyon added. “We’re dreaming now. This is a game changer, today. We’ll book some hotels and cancel them if we have to. We think we might have a Derby horse here.”

The victory provided second-crop stallion and 2016 Champion 2-Year-Old Classic Empire with his first graded stakes winning progeny. Bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Tillyer and Dr. Chet Blackey, Morello was a $250,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale last May and is out of the Congrats mare Stop the Wedding.

Morello returned $4 for a $2 win wager and banked $165,000, enhancing his lifetime earnings past the quarter-million mark to $264,000.