Shagaf pulls out Gotham win, moves into Derby picture

NEW YORK (AP) About an hour before the Gotham Stakes, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., was rolling around in pain on the track. One of racing's rising stars had been unseated by his horse after the finish of the seventh race at Aqueduct. He was placed on a stretcher, put in an ambulance and checked out by doctors.

He sat out the next race, but was cleared to ride favorite Shagaf in Saturday's Gotham, a prep race for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

By the time the field turned for home in this one, Ortiz and Shagaf were in the clear on the outside and running down front-runner Laoban for a 1 1/4 length victory.

''When I gave him his cue, he took off,'' said a smiling Ortiz, adding that he was not injured at all after the spill. ''He did everything right. He was like a professional.''

Shagaf ran his record to 3-0 for trainer Chad Brown and owner Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stable.

''He showed a lot of heart, and he's everything we thought he'd be,'' Brown said. ''He's gaining experience with every race. Irad rode him terrific.''

And now it's on to the Wood Memorial on April 9 at the Big A for a final prep before the Derby.

''Absolutely the plan is to stay here for the Wood,'' the trainer said.

Shagaf won his debut at Aqueduct and then won at Gulfstream Park in his second start. He was shipped to New York from Florida a few days ago.

The 3-year-old colt earned 50 Derby qualifying points with the win. Laoban earned 20 points for second. Adventist was third for 10 points and Sunny Ridge fourth for five points. Conquest Big E was fifth, followed by Rally City and Vincento. Mo Power was scratched.

With Laoban on the lead for much of the race, Shagaf began picking up steam in the stretch running three wide. The colt caught the leader in the final strides and covered the 1 1-16 miles in 1:45.90.

Shagaf moved into third place in Derby qualifying points, trailing only Mohaymen with 70 points and Gun Runner with 51 points. Laoban's point total improved to 22, good for eighth place. Shadwell Stable also owns Mohaymen, another leading Derby contender with a 5-0 record.

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the field of seven, Shagaf returned $4.50, $3.60 and $2.90. Laoban paid $10.80 and $5.10, and Adventist paid $3.60.

Eric Guillot, who trains Laoban, said his colt might run next in the Wood, but is also considering the Blue Grass in Keeneland on April 9. Starting from the rail in the Gotham was not an advantage, he said.

''He's a big horse. He never really breaks sharp,'' Guillot said. ''He broke a half-jump slow ... He's got tons of ability but this horse, when you ride him, he gets on the muscle and just keeps pedaling.''

Shagaf, a son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, earned $240,000 of the $400,000 Gotham purse.

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Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

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