Kentucky Derby 2013 Prep Races: Withers Stakes Preview

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out heavy favorite Revolutionary in Saturday's Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. - Rob Carr

New York enters the Kentucky Derby prep race scene with the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, Feb 2.

Revolutionary, owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, is the heavy 3/5 morning line favorite for the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, Feb. 2. Run at a mile and a sixteenth on Aqueduct's inner dirt track, the Withers is scheduled to go to post at 4:18 pm Eastern with live television coverage from TVG and HRTV.

After failing to win a race in his first three attempts, Revolutionary finally broke his maiden when he blew away a field by eight lengths on Dec. 28. He won about as easy as a horse can win with jockey Ramon Dominguez barely asking him to run at the top of the stretch. However, the challenge of stepping up to graded stakes company is magnified by a change in jockey following the serious injury to Dominguez a couple of weeks ago. Javier Castellano will ride Revolutionary for the first time in the Withers.

Darley Stable sends out a strong coupled entry of 1-Long River and 1a-Valid (7/2) under the watchful eye of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Long River has flashed signs of talent in prior races but struggled in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes in his last start. The well-bred Long River is a son of A.P. Indy and is the first foal to race from the million mare Round Pond, winner of the 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Valid comes into the Withers following a maiden breaking victory at Laurel Park on New Year's Eve and is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winning filly Malibu Prayer. A son of Travers and Whitney winner Medaglia d'Oro, Valid has the pedigree to improve as he begins to run longer races.

3-Escapefromreality (6/1) moves into the graded stakes ranks for the first time after a pair of strong races against state-bred company in November and December. The Withers will be Escapefromreality's first attempt at running a distance greater than six furlongs and his sprinter's speed should allow him to control the early pace of the race. The ultimate question for this colt is clear: does he have the class and stamina to take this field all the way around the track?

5-Siete de Oros (8/1) finished just a head behind Vyjack as a 42/1 long shot in the G2-Jerome back on Jan. 5. He won't sneak up on anyone this time around but needs to prove his big effort last time out wasn't a fluke. The Jerome was the first time Siete de Oros raced with blinkers making it entirely possible that this gelding just needed to focus more in the early stages of the race.

7-Smooth Bert (15/1) ran well against New York-bred competition last fall and winter but will need to show major improvement in this race if he's to have a chance to spring an upset. On the positive side, however, is Smooth Bert's wet track form -- he's 4-2-0-1 when racing over off tracks and might be a contender is the surface comes up sloppy by post time.

The Pick

A lot of money will go towards Revolutionary and the Darley entry prior to post time, and any of those three horses are logical plays based on their recent efforts. If we're looking for a bit more bang for our buck (along with increased risk), Siete de Oros might just be the horse to bet on.

While there's a chance his Jerome race as a bit of a fluke, I think it's just as likely that the addition of blinkers encouraged Siete de Oros to get into the race at a much earlier stage as compared to his prior races. With the Aqueduct inner dirt typically favoring speed, Siete de Oros needs to be up on or near the lead through the first half to three quarters of a mile to put himself in the best position to win. He'll probably get bet down slightly off of those 8/1 morning line odds, but I'd be willing to take a shot with this horse at odds of 5/1 or higher.

If the track comes up wet, and his odds are still in the 12/1 or greater range, I'll throw a light win bet on Smooth Bert, as well as play an exacta with Smooth Bert and Escapefromreality.

G3-Withers Stakes; Post Time: 4:18pm Eastern
PP # Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 1 Long River I. Ortiz K. McLaughlin 7/2
2 1a Valid J. Alvarado K. McLaughlin 7/2
3 2 Revolutionary J. Castellano T. Pletcher 3/5
4 3 Escapefromreality J. Ortiz D. Schettino 6/1
5 4 Amerigo Vespucci E. Rodriguez T. Tullock 15/1
6 5 Siete de Oros M. Remedio R. Preciado 8/1
7 6 Champion Boy E. Castro J. Guerrero 30/1
8 7 Smooth Bert M. Luzzi L. Gyarmati 15/1
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