A field of six three-year-olds will line up on Saturday in the $250,000 Withers (G3), with 17 points up for grabs in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of races, 10 points to the winner.
The race is one of three on Saturday that could produce Derby contenders. The $200,000 Hutcheson (G2) at Gulfstream Park and the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs do not have Derby points on the line, but either could produce runners that end up in the Run for the Roses.
Last year’s Withers winner was Revolutionary, who went on to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) and then checked in third in the Kentucky Derby (G1)
This year’s Withers features a pair of highly regarded New York breds that are coming off big wins. The Rick Violette trained Samraat is the 7-5 morning line favorite and is coming off a 16 ¾ length win in the state bred Damon Runyon. Uncle Sigh will get plenty of betting action off his 14 ½-length win against state bred maiden special weight company in his second career outing for trainer Gary Contessa.
The Withers is one of four stakes races on an outstanding 10-race card. The stakes action starts with the $150,000 Toboggan (G3) followed by the $100,000 Busher and the $100,000 Correction.
The Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park drew a field of 10, and race may be used by several as a springboard to the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) later in the meeting. Wildcat Red, who was the runner up in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1 is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
The Sam F. Davis serves as a local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 8. The Chad Brown trainee Cousin Stephen is the 3-1 morning line favorite despite coming up short in a fifth place finish against first level optional claimers in his last outing.
Springboard Mile runner up Noble Cornerstone should get some betting action, and trainer Todd Pletcher sends out a couple of maiden winners in Harpoon and Vinceremos.
All of the stakes will be included in my Best Plays Report for Saturday.
Let’s head out to Aqueduct for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Aqueduct Race 9 The Withers (G3) Post time 4:20 ET
4 Classic Giacnroll 5-1
5 Samraat 7-5
1 Uncle Sigh 9-5
3 Scotland 8-1
Classic Giacnroll looks like the value of the race if the colt goes off neat his 5-1 morning line. The Lisa Guerrero trainee is coming off a runner up finish in the Jerome (G2) last out. In that outing the colt stalked the early pace while wide, came with a three wide bid and could not catch Noble Moon, who was taking full advantage of a racing strip that was playing to inside speed. Two back in the Marylander at Laurel Park the colt was a good third, beaten two lengths for the top spot. Three runners have come out of the race to win stakes next out including the winner Joint Custody, who won the Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel Park on Dec. 28 and Extrasexyhippzter, who won the Don Rickles at Aqueduct on Dec. 21 and then won the Miracle Wood at Laurel Park in his most recent outing. I like the jock switch to CVel and he should move forward in his second trip around two turns. There is plenty of early zip signed up here to set things up for him.
Samraat has trounced New York breds in his three career starts, winning by a combined 25 3/4 lengths. The colt made his stakes debut last out in the state bred Damon Runyon and he sailed to a gate to wire win by 16 ¾ lengths over a wet track. The colt earned the top last out speed fig, but he steps up to face a much tougher group here facing open company for the first time.
Uncle Sigh is also a state bred and he broke his maiden last out in his second career start with a sharp 14 ½ length win. The runner up in the race was Pax in Terra, who came back to graduate in his next outing on Jan. 18. The colt earned a solid number in his debut which was a heads loss going six furlongs on the mud to Groupthink, who has not run back to date. The $270,000 Spa purchase has a solid pedigree, by Indian Charlie out of a Pine Bluff mare that has dropped five other winners including stakes winner Percussion ($447,194).
WIN: Classic Giacnroll to win at 7-2 or better.
EXACTA: 4,5 / 1,4,5
TRIFECTA: no play
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