The first key Kentucky Derby prep in New York for 2013 takes place on Saturday as a field of eight will go to the post in the Grade 3 $200,000 Withers, one of four stakes on the 10-race card.
There will be 17 points up for grabs in the Withers, which is part of the Churchill Downs’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series. The winner receives 10 points, the runner-up four points, the third-place finisher two points, and the fourth-place finisher will earn one point.
The Withers serves as a steppingstone to Grade 3 $400,000 Gotham on March 2 and the Grade 1 $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6. The breakdown on points for the Gotham is 50-20-10-5 and the Wood is worth 100 points to the winner, with the next three finishers earning 40-20-10 points.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who already has Shanghai Bobby, Overanalyze, and Violence as major Derby contenders will send out the 3-5 morning line favorite Revolutionary in the Withers.
The colt will be facing winners for the first time after an impressive maiden score in his fourth career start and first around two turns. The colt earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden breaker.
The $235,000 Ocala purchase has a nice pedigree. He is by War Pass out of the Grade 1 winner Runup the Colors, who is by A.P. Indy.
A field of seven will line up against the heavy favorite including the Kiaran McLaughlin trained entry of Grade 3 Jerome fourth place finisher Long River and recent maiden winner Valid. The entry is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
The stakes action kicks off with the third race, which is the $100,000 Correction, which drew a field of six with five betting interests.
The Mike Hushion trained Nicole H (4-5) comes into the race riding a three race win streak, taking the Interborough on New Year’s Day in her last outing. Her main foe will be the Steve Asmussen trained Cluster of Stars (8-5), who is perfect in two starts, winning by a combined 11 ¾ lengths.
The $100,000 Busher drew a compact field of five three-year-old fillies led by the Pletcher trained Princess of Sylmar, who was the much the best winner of the Busanda in her last outing. She drew off to win by 7 ½ lengths and has won three of her four career starts.
The eighth race on the card is the Grade 3 $150,000 Toboggan at six furlongs which drew a field of six older sprinters. Johannesburg Smile (2-1) beat third level optional claimers in his last start and was claimed out of the race by owner Mike Repole for $100,000 and makes his first start for the Pletcher barn.
His main foes will be the speedy Head Heart Hoof (3-1) who is a 17-time winner in his career and is coming off a win in the Truen Blue, and Mine Over Matter (5-2), who was second in the Turnofthecentury on Jan. 20.
The New York Racing Association announced that racing will be scaled back to four days a week starting next week. There will be no racing on Feb. 6, Feb. 13-14, and Feb. 27, as well as March 6 and March 13.
Coming up on Saturday my Best Plays Report will include my strongest plays from Aqueduct as well as the stakes action from Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
Michael Dempsey provides his full card handicapping report each racing day from New York. His Aqueduct Report is available every day Wednesday through Sunday. Michael has covered the New York circuit daily for more than two decades.