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Raise Cain rallied from far back to win the 2023 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, a prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) worth 50 points to the winner. Is the Ben Colebrook-trained Violence colt becoming a sneaky Kentucky Derby long shot horse? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Andrew Warren and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain announced his presence on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with an emphatic open-lengths score for trainer Ben Colebrook in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Raise Cain earned the maximum qualifying points towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, which awarded the top-five finishers points on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. Raise Cain, who entered with four points to his credit, now boasts 54 total points.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, the bay son of Violence scored the first stakes victory of his career on the heels of a sophomore debut over Tufway Park’s synthetic on January 21 when a distant fifth around two turns in the one-mile Leonatus. Raise Cain made his first dirt start since a second-place finish in the December 26 Gun Runner going 1 1/16-miles at Fair Grounds, which came one start after a third-place finish in the six-furlong Bowman Mill in October at Keeneland. The Gotham was his first victory since a second-out graduation sprinting seven furlongs in October at Keeneland.
“He finally had some pace to run into, and I think that’s what he’s been missing to be honest,” said Colebrook. “He never really had any pace to close into except in his maiden win. I don’t know that it’s necessarily one turn that he needs, but I definitely think pace to close into is what he needs because he’s such a relaxed horse and he can make that one big run like he did today. More credit goes to Jose for the ride. It was just a phenomenal ride.”
Emerging from post 11 in the 14-horse field, Raise Cain broke cleanly and saved ground near the rear of the field as Howgreatisnate stumbled from post 2 and unseated jockey J. D. Acosta. The trio of Eyeing Clover, Recruiter and Carmel Road were head-to-head exiting the chute before Recruiter came away with a slim advantage through an opening quarter-mile in 22.52 seconds over the muddy and sealed main track.
Raise Cain continued to stalk in ninth under a patient Lezcano down the backstretch as Carmel Road took command and was passed by the riderless Howgreatisnate with Eyeing Clover and Recruiter coming under a ride to his outside after a half-mile in 45.53. Raise Cain raced three-wide approaching the turn and was angled to the inside by Lezcano mid-turn, steadying slightly as he ran up on the heels of Mr. Swagger and opting to maneuver around the outside of that foe as he approached the top of the lane.
Carmel Road clung to a precarious lead over Eyeing Clover as Recruiter tired, but could not fend off the former and lost the advantage with an eighth of a mile to the finish. Raise Cain made up ground with every stride to the outside of Eyeing Clover and passed his foe with ease in mid-stretch, drawing away strongly from the late bid of Slip Mahoney from 13th and posting the 7 1/2-length victory in a final time of 1:38.09.
Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England’s New York homebred General Banker came on late to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Slip Mahoney and secured show honors by a nose over Eyeing Clover. Clear the Air, Mr. Swagger, Lugan Knight, Carmel Road, Radio Red, Transect, Recruiter, Uncorrelated and Clubhouse completed the order of finish. Howgreatisnate completed the course and was collared by the outrider after the finish. Both horse and rider walked off under their own power. Fort Warren, who is entered in Monday’s City of Brotherly Love at Parx Racing, was scratched.
Colebrook, who won his first Big A graded stake, said Raise Cain gives his best effort with a quick tempo in front of him and has improved greatly since finishing eighth on debut in September at Churchill Downs.
“He’s bred to go longer and if he were to go on to the Derby, you usually get plenty of pace in there,” said Colebrook. “I think more than anything pace is what he needs. He’s never run a bad race. The first race you can throw out because he’s so lackadaisical and he didn’t know what was going on until after the race. I ran him back after his maiden win going three-quarters [in the Bowman Mill] just because the race was at Keeneland. I probably ran him back too quick and six furlongs might be a little too sharp. But he didn’t run bad that day and the synthetic race was what it was. It just wasn’t the right surface for the horse.”
Lezcano said Raise Cain was professional in victory.
“My horse broke very sharp. I let him break running away from there and when I passed the chute, I saw everybody looking and going outside,” said Lezcano. “I crossed outside to inside and my horse did everything so easy. He did whatever I asked him to do.”
Lezcano, who scored back-to-back Gotham triumphs after piloting Morello to victory last year, praised Raise Cain’s athleticism when running up on the Carlos Olivero-piloted Mr. Swagger in the turn.
“I think the Carlos Olivero horse was in the second path and I tried to go through, but when I tried to go through he came over and I had to check a little bit and go around,” said Lezcano. “My horse did it very easy. He’s a very light horse and when I asked him, he got right back into the race.
Raise Cain has been nominated to the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 8 at Keeneland, but Colebrook did not rule out the possibility of returning to the Big A for the nine-furlong Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on the same day. Both races offer 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers.
“It’s too early to tell, but we’re nominated to the Blue Grass and we’ll nominate to the Wood Memorial. It’ll probably be one of those two races and we’ll see how it plays out and go to whichever race looks like the best option,” Colebrook said. “You got a race in your own backyard and a race that he’s shipped and won over the track. When you ship, it’s always an unknown and now that we’ve shipped here it’s not an unknown for him. Those are two things to think about. So much changes day to day with 3-year-olds and the division and that stuff. It’s like my old boss Christophe Clement would say, ‘It’s a good problem to have.’”
Bred in Kentucky by Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, Raise Cain earned a winning share of $165,000 for his victory and improved his lifetime record to 6-2-1-1. He returned $49 for a $2 win ticket.
Trevor McCarthy, who guided Slip Mahoney from off the pace to land place honors, said a poor break may have actually benefited the Brad Cox trainee.
“I really didn’t get a good break. After that, they were flying up front so I just let him settle. The way the closers were playing the last few races, especially with the pace, maybe it was a blessing in disguise,” said McCarthy. “I had to make a wide rally. There were just so many horses that were backing up in front of me. I had a super-wide rally, but he seemed to finish really well and that was probably the better part of the track anyway.”
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