OTB Race Previews
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The Road to the Kentucky Derby in the Empire State resumes when a field of nine sophomores assemble for the 147th running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, February 6.
The nine-furlong event over the main track is the second local prep of the calendar year for the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs, and awards the top-four finishers points according to a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will be packing a one-two punch in pursuit of a fourth Withers victory, sending out maiden-winners Overtook and Donegal Bay, both of which will be making their respective stakes debut.
Race 8 at Aqueduct on Saturday, February 6 - Post 4:25 PM
|2||Royal Number||15-1||Pablo Morales
|3||Capo Kane||9-5||Dylan Davis
|4||Mr. Doda||20-1||Luis Rodriguez Castro
|5||Risk Taking||5-1||Eric Cancel
|7||Donegal Bay||7-2||Kendrick Carmouche
|8||Civil War||20-1||Benjamin Hernandez
|9||Eagle Orb||6-1||Jorge Vargas, Jr.
Overtook graduated going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct on December 20. The son of multiple champion-producing sire Curlin was 10 lengths behind the pace before making a six-wide move around the far turn, making up considerable ground in the stretch to secure a two-length triumph while recording a 70 Beyer Speed Figure.
"There could be a good pace. Overtook wants to settle and make one run so we'll allow him to do that," said Pletcher, who trained Withers winners Harlem Rocker (2008), Revolutionary (2013) and Far From Over (2015).
Overtook finished a distant third to stablemate and fellow Curlin offspring Known Agenda on November 8 at the Big A in a nine-furlong maiden event. Known Agenda subsequently ran third in the Grade 2 Remsen and runner-up Greatest Honour was a next-out winner of the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
Sporting blinkers in his first two career starts, Overtook raced without the hood in his maiden victory.
"I think he's learning. He's gained some confidence with the experience and we felt like the blinkers needed to come off," Pletcher said. "He got a nice hot pace to run at which helped. He's an improving horse that is bred to get better with more distance and more time. We've seen him making progress throughout and fall and winter. This is a big step up, but hopefully he's up for it."
The royally bred Overtook was purchased for $1 million from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Jockey Manny Franco seeks his third Withers triumph when piloting Overtook from post 6.
Donegal Bay will be diving into deeper waters as he makes his two-turn debut.
Owned by Jerry Crawford's Donegal Racing, Donegal Bay finished sixth on debut going 6 ½ furlongs at Saratoga. He showed a different dimension in his subsequent start, notching a front-running victory by 4 ¼ lengths going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park on December 12.
"I think it was the additional time, having a start under his belt as well as having some good works leading into that," Pletcher said. "He also got a better start which a lot of horses do in their second race. He has a pretty high cruising speed. Pedigree-wise, he's bred to go that far. It's a big step up from a maiden race, but we're hoping for a big run."
Donegal Bay has been training forwardly along with Pletcher's string at Palm Beach Downs and went a half-mile in 49.03 seconds on January 29 in his most recent work.
"It's a bit of a tricky race," Crawford said. "This is the time of year where some horses get better and some don't, and he needs to get better on Saturday if he can turn himself into a contender. Obviously, there's a fair amount of front-end speed and they'll be asked to go a mile and an eighth at the same time. Donegal Racing has always been treated exceptionally well in New York and have had some good success up there."
A son of 2010 Champion 2-Year-Old and Pletcher alumna Uncle Mo, Pletcher said that he sees a lot of similarities between Donegal Bay and his champion-producing sire.
"Donegal Bay is a little more on the narrow side, but you can see the same head and neck that Uncle Mo stamps his offspring with," Pletcher said. "What I like is that from the past summer, the horse is starting to fill out. He seems to be doing really well."
Meet-leading rider Kendrick Carmouche vies for a sixth stakes victory of the meet when taking the reins aboard Donegal Bay from post 7.
Bing Cherry Racing and Leonard Liberto's Capo Kane returns to Aqueduct in pursuit of more Kentucky Derby qualifying points after capturing the Jerome on New Year's Day.
Trained by Harold Wyner, Capo Kane earned 10 points toward a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May when taking the one-turn mile in gate-to-wire fashion under jockey Dylan Davis. After commanding moderate fractions up front, Capo Kane came under a drive at the top of the stretch and extended his advantage to a 6 ¼-length triumph.
The son of Street Sense, who sired 2018 Withers winner Avery Island, broke his maiden going two turns at Parx Racing in identical front-running fashion, hitting the wire a 4 ½-length winner.
With 10 qualifying Derby points from the Jerome, Capo Kane is currently 13th on the leaderboard.
Davis, who rode last year's Withers winner Max Player, will return to the saddle from post 3.
E.V Racing Stable's Eagle Orb will be seeking to turn the tables on Capo Kane after finishing second in the Jerome.
The two-time winning New York-bred captured a stakes win in the November 14 Notebook at the Big A before the runner-up finish on New Year's Day.
Tracking in third from the three path out of the gate, Eagle Orb came under a drive around the far turn and attempted to confront Capo Kane around the three-sixteenths, but was kept at bay at had to settle for second.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, the son of Orb is 24th on the leaderboard with four points.
Breaking from post 9, jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. has the mount.
Risk Taking (Klaravich Stables) looks to capitalize off a winning performance at the Withers distance for trainer Chad Brown.
The son of Medaglia d'Oro made amends for two well-beaten performances in his first pair of starts when stretching out to two turns in a December 13 maiden special weight at the Big A. Risk Taking settled in fourth along the rail into the first turn and maintained position behind horses before making a three-wide move at the top of the stretch and taking command outside the sixteenth pole to run home a 2 ¼-length winner.
Purchased for $240,000 from the Lanes' End consignment at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Risk Taking is out of the stakes-placed Distorted Humor mare Run a Risk and comes from the same family as champion-producing sire Seeking the Gold.
Jockey Eric Cancel will be back aboard from post 5.
Rounding out the field are Maryland invaders Shackqueenking [post 1, Trevor McCarthy] and Royal Number [post 2, Pablo Morales], as well as Mr. Doda [post 4, Luis Rodriguez Castro] and Civil War [post 8, Benjamin Hernandez].
The Withers is slated as Race 8 on Aqueduct's nine-race program which has a first post of 1 p.m. Eastern.
The Withers, named in honor of prominent 1800's owner and breeder David Dunham Withers, predates the Kentucky Derby by one year with its inaugural running taking place in 1874. Coincidentally, the following year's Withers was won by Aristides who also captured the very first running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. Four other horses have both the Withers and Kentucky Derby on their resume including Triple crown winners Sir Barton (1919) and Count Fleet (1943) as well as Zev (1923) and Johnstown (1939).
Shackqueenking (Pocket 3's Racing) will make his first start away from Laurel Park in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trainer Gary Capuano said the Shackleford chestnut, who is undefeated around two turns at Laurel Park, will relish the added distance in the nine-furlong test offering 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
"The two turns is why I wanted to give him a shot up there. Plus, he's training real good," said Capuano. "There's a race at Laurel on the 13th [Miracle Wood] going a one-turn mile, but I like the two turns."
Boasting a perfect in-the-money record of 5-2-2-1, Shackqueenking was a maiden winner at second asking in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on November 27 in his first trip around two turns. He followed with a good second in an optional-claiming mile on December 13 before wheeling back two weeks later to secure a nose win in the Howard County at 1 1/16-miles on December 26.
Last out, Shackqueenking finished an even third when cut back to seven furlongs for the Spectacular Bid on January 16.
"I ran him short here a couple weeks ago going seven-eighths and it's not really his game," said Capuano. "He's pretty versatile but I think the two turns is better. I didn't run him down here on Lasix last time, but I could have. We didn't have any issues."
Purchased for $20,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Capuano said Shackqueenking demonstrated a good physical presence.
"I like the Shackleford type," said Capuano. "Most of them are big, rangy kind of horses which I like. He just fit the bill and the price was where we were looking."
Capuano traveled the Derby trail previously at the Big A, when he saddled Captain Bodgit to a two-length score in the 1997 Grade 2 Wood Memorial ahead of a narrow head defeat to Silver Charm on the first Saturday in May. The veteran conditioner said he is cautiously optimistic of another Derby run heading into Saturday's test.
"He is nominated for it and if he can take us there that would be great. If he does well there we will keep moving forward, but this will be the test," said Capuano. "He's a big, strapping horse. I don't think he'll have any problem with the mile and an eighth. It's a good test for him and we'll see if he's capable and where we can go from there. He's done everything we've asked of him so far."
Capuano said Trevor McCarthy will pick up the mount.
"We should get a good, honest ride and get a good idea of where we're at," said Capuano. "He can sure fit him, he's not a real hard horse to ride."
Trainer Harold Wyner said Capo Kane is on target to make his next start in the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 6 at the Big A, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
"He's doing real good. We're on track for the Withers," said Wyner. "He had a two-minute lick this morning. A strong gallop. I just put some air in him and he finished up well in the last quarter."
The Street Sense bay registered a career-best 84 Beyer Speed Figure last out with a frontrunning score under Dylan Davis in the one-turn mile Jerome on New Year's Day at the Big A, which earned the colt 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
The Manchester, England-born conditioner said Capo Kane has thrived out of his first stakes win.
"He's more aggressive and waking up. He seems to be maturing and moving forward nicely," said Wyner, who gets up on the talented bay most mornings. "I've been working with him and he's focusing nice."
A winner at second asking in a mile and seventy yard maiden tilt on November 20 at Parx, Capo Kane made every pole a winning one, drawing off to a 6 1/4-length score in the Jerome.
Wyner said he will let Davis, who retains the mount for the Withers, determine race strategy.
"I'll leave it up to Dylan. If he breaks good and somebody goes out there winging it on a fast pace, he can sit second or third," said Wyner. "He can come from behind if he has to. I'll just tell Dylan to do what he wants and see how the race unfolds."
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After passing the two-turn test with flying colors last out, dual winner Royal Number could try stakes company in Saturday's Grade 3 Withers going nine furlongs.
Owned by R. Larry Johnson and R.D.M Racing, the chestnut son of Palace Malice defeated winners in a January 9 allowance optional claiming event at Laurel Park going 1 1/16 miles over the main track. Royal Number raced inside and off the pace in fourth into the first turn and inched his way to the front under no urging around the far turn before drawing off a 7 ¾-length winner for trainer Mike Trombetta.
"The Withers is under consideration. He ran a great race last time," Trombetta said. "We just have to see what we can do this week in terms of training with the weather."
The Withers is a 10-4-2-1 qualifier for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs. Trombetta has saddled two horses for the Run for the Roses with his best finish taking place with Sweetnorthernsaint in 2006, who entered the gate as the post-time favorite and finished seventh.
Royal Number made his debut a winning one going five furlongs on September 23 at Delaware Park before finishing behind accomplished Maryland-based runners such as Jaxon Traveler, Hello Hot Rod and fellow Withers aspirant Shackqueenking.
Bred in the Old Line State by Fitzhugh, Royal Number is out of the Include mare Hartigan, who won four stakes on the Maryland circuit.
Trombetta is no stranger to shipping to New York for stakes prosperity at a price, and did so earlier this month with Bella Aurora, who upset the seven-furlong Interborough at 37-1 odds on January 18 at the Big A. Trombetta said the chestnut daughter of Carpe Diem has been retired from racing to be bred to 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic.
"The owners made a commitment to breed her to Authentic so she's in Kentucky now. She went out a winner," Trombetta said.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said he will keep stakes winner Eagle Orb in pursuit of Kentucky Derby qualifying points and plans on pointing the New York-bred stakes winner to the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The Withers offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Owned by E. V. Racing Stable, the son of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb earned four points on the Derby trail when finishing second to Capo Kane in the Jerome on New Year's Day at the Big A going a one-turn mile.
The Withers will be Eagle Orb's first start going two turns as he attempts his first overall win past six furlongs. He broke his maiden going three-quarters on August 21 at Saratoga and four starts later won the Notebook on November 14 at Aqueduct going six furlongs.
Eagle Orb last breezed on January 20, completing a five-furlong work in 1:03.07 over the Belmont Park training track.
"We're going to try for the Withers," Rodriguez said. "He's been training very good. Right now is the time to take a chance so that's the place to go. We just have to keep the dream alive."
Bred by Barry Ostrager, Eagle Orb is out of the Harlan's Holiday mare Lady On Holiday and was purchased for $95,000 from the Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale in 2019.
Should Rodriguez's Derby dreams come alive, Eagle Orb would be his second starter in the Run for the Roses. His first Derby starter was Vyjack, who won the Jerome and Gotham in 2013, and subsequently finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby.
"He was a nice horse," Rodriguez said of Vyjack. "He was one of the best horses that we've ever trained."
Rodriguez said he plans on regrouping with Backsideofthemoon, who was fourth beaten 20 lengths following a slow start under Jose Lezcano as the post time favorite for the Jazil. The 9-year-old son of Malibu Moon arrived off a career-best 106 Beyer in the December 19 Queens County at the Big A.
"We're going to regroup with him," Rodriguez said. "It looked like he came back good, but I'll check him out the next couple of days. Before the break he was close to the gate and he came out of the gate a step slow. Jose said he tried to break before the gate opened."
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