I have never been a fan of the Kentucky Derby horses that do their campaigning in New York.
Training and racing in the harsh winter conditions in New York has got to take its toll on a horse, doesn’t it? Be out in the very cold weather that at times includes snow and it is bound to take a pound of flesh out of someone, whether it is a man or horse.
The Withers is set for Saturday at Aqueduct. While the forecast for Saturday is sunny, the day will be surrounded by rain on Friday and snow on Sunday.
Oh, and while it will be clear Saturday, the temperature is set to hit a balmy high of 43 degrees.
The weather is also the reason trainers from that area seem to send their “A” stables every year to Gulfstream, with Tampa Bay Downs as another viable option.
But there are still a series of Derby prep races set in New York such as the Withers Saturday, so let us look at the race.
The 1-1/8-mile race is set for the 8th on the Aqueduct card and is set for a 1:25 p.m. PDT post.
There are a couple of high powered trainers with runners here in Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher. It is no surprise they are saddling some of the favorites.
Risk Taking (Brown/Eric Cancel/5-2) is your favorite here. The horse is coming off a straight maiden win over the Aqueduct surface on December 13. The win came in his third start and followed a pair of disappointing efforts – a 7th on the main track, followed by a 6th on the turf.
He came from a stalking position to get the win in the lane and since then, he has had a series of decent works for the race.
The number two choice falls on Capo King (Harold Wyner/Dylan Davis/3-1). Two straight wins, including the Jerome, the first prep of the year at Aqueduct. He was 6-1 in the race and went out and wired the field, much the same as he did in his maiden score the race before.
Two wins in three starts and the best last race Beyer in the field makes him a viable threat.
Pletcher brings in Donegal Bay (Pletcher/Kendrick Carmouche/7-2) a horse that broke maiden in his last start, a one-mile affair over the dirt at Gulfstream.
It was a drastic improvement from the first start at Saratoga in mid-August. After 3-plus months on the shelf, he came back to get the win. He has also been drilling well in Florida, but now finds himself in New York.
Another Pletcher runner is Overtook (Pletcher/Manny Franco/6-1), a $1 million dollar purchase from Curlin. Nothing jumps off the page other than the purchase price. His lone win came in his third start, a one-mile straight maiden at Aqueduct in late December.
The work tab leading into the Withers is not inspiring as well.
The lone other single-digit morning line horse is Royal Number (Michael Trombetta/Pablo Morales/6-1. The horse won at first asking back in September at Delaware, then has been a consistent runner in optional claimers at Laurel Park.
He is coming off a 7-length win on Jan. 9 and now takes what looks like a step up against these.
One that may be worth a look at a price is Eagle Orb (Rudy Rodiguez/Jorge Vargas/10-1). He was second in the Jerome, well back of Capo Kane, but has been running well in better races than a lot of these have been facing.
A bullet work in prep for this race gives a reason to take a look against what doesn’t seem an overly loaded field.
By Dennis Miller