Instagrand & Much Better Headed to the Gotham

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Instagrand | Benoit

'TDN Rising Star' Instagrand (Into Mischief) was originally scheduled to make his highly anticipated to return to action in the Mar. 9 GII San Felipe S. at his hometrack of Santa Anita, but has been re-routed to Aqueduct's GIII Gotham S. on the same day. The Gotham is one-turn as opposed to the two-turn San Felipe, which is being targeted by undefeated Bob Baffert pupils and fellow 'Rising Stars' Improbable (City Zip) and champion Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}).

“The distance of the race seems to be a better place to start going a one-turn mile rather than a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita. He's been off for a while,” said Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, who will ship his charge in to New York Wednesday.

An ultra-impressive debut winner sprinting at Los Alamitos June 29, Instagrand romped by 10 1/4 lengths in the six-panel GII Best Pal S. at Del Mar Aug. 11, after which his owner Larry Best decided to give him the rest of the season off to prepare for his 3-year-old campaign. The blaze-faced bay returned to the worktab Dec. 30 and has been breezing steadily since, most recently covering seven panels in 1:26.60 in Arcadia Feb. 25.

“He's training very nice. We think we have the horse good enough to run,” said Hollendorfer. “He was always a well-meant horse, and Larry Best [OXO Equine] spent quite a bit of money for him and he's proven to be worth it.”

Though Instagrand will avoid a clash with Baffert's unbeaten heavy hitters for now, he will still face a runner for the two-time Triple Crown winner's barn in Much Better (Pioneerof the Nile). Opening his account with a win sprinting on dirt at Del Mar in September, the Three Chimneys homebred checked in second in the grassy Zuma Beach S. a month later and was well-beaten in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 2. Third in the GIII Sham S. when getting back on dirt Jan. 5, the dark bay scored a decisive win in a 6 1/2-furlong main track optional claimer at Santa Anita last time Feb. 9.

“We were thinking this might be a good race to stretch him back out and see his ability,” said Baffert. “I thought he ran solid in his last start and we'd really like to see what he can do at two turns. He's a Pioneerof the Nile and he has a lot of speed.”

The Hall of Famer continued, “Previously, in the Sham when he went two turns, he seemed to be moving well and just came up a bit short towards the finish. He won his debut sprinting and then we tried him out on the turf, but he's shown us enough on the dirt where we want to give him another shot to stretch out and at a mile this could be a good spot to do it.”

Also possible for the Gotham is GI Breeders' Futurity S. winner and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Knicks Go (Paynter), who was last seen finishing fifth in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa last month.

“It's certainly a possibility that we enter for the Gotham,” said trainer Ben Colebrook. “He's seemed to come out of the Sam F. Davis well. He's had one breeze since then that we were happy with and he's remained healthy. We're still trying to pick our spots and find our way to the Derby.”

He added, “Obviously, cutting back to the mile [distance] for the Gotham could certainly work in his favor, but the race is also looking like it will come up real salty, so we'll weigh all of our options.”

 

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