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2023 Withers Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Arctic Arrogance Adds Blinkers For Derby Prep Vs Hit Show
Arctic Arrogance (NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

2023 Withers Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Arctic Arrogance Adds Blinkers For Derby Prep Vs Hit Show

Aaron previews the 2023 Withers Stakes (G3) from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots from this Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race. Trainer Linda Cox’s Arctic Arrogance adds blinkers after finishing second in both the 2022 Remsen Stakes (G2) and the Jerome Stakes, but is Hit Show ready for a star-making upset? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Chester and Mary Broman’s graded stakes-placed New York homebred Arctic Arrogance will contest graded stakes company for the second time in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers, a nine-furlong test for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Withers, which was rescheduled from last Saturday when live racing was canceled at the Big A due to high winds and extreme cold, is a prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and awards the top-five finishers 20-8-6-4-2 qualifying points towards the prestigious Grade 1 test on May 6 at Churchill Downs. Juddmonte’s Jungfrau is the lone newcomer to the field, which includes all six horses who entered last week.

Arctic Arrogance, who is trained by Linda Rice, will be making this third appearance in a Kentucky Derby points race at the Big A. He looks to break through after valiant runner-up efforts in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen on December 3 and the one-mile Jerome on January 7. He is currently 13th on the leaderboard with eight points.

Rice had previously indicated that Arctic Arrogance has proven to be a challenge to keep fit into his races, including the Jerome when he missed a scheduled work leading into the race. Rice said Arctic Arrogance has maintained good fitness through the extra week between races, working an additional five-furlongs in 1:03.22 over the Belmont dirt training track Friday.

“We didn’t have any weather and didn’t miss any works,” Rice said of the time between the Jerome and the Withers. “Obviously, we were planning on running last week, but with the cancelation, I breezed him before the weather hit us. It was not ideal and the schedule isn’t perfect, but it is what it is.”

The son of Frosted displayed his talents on debut with a pacesetting one-length score in a state-bred maiden sprint in September over a muddy and sealed main track at Saratoga Race Course. He followed with a similar frontrunning trip in the seven-furlong Bertram F. Bongard in September at Belmont at the Big A against state-breds, finishing second to upset winner Jackson Heights.

Arctic Arrogance made his open company debut in the Remsen, where he set the pace under returning pilot Jose Lezcano and battled gamely down the lane with the victorious Dubyuhnell to come up a half-length shy of victory. He traveled in second position throughout in the next-out Jerome, finishing a half-length back of the frontrunning winner Lugan Knight.

Rice said she is hopeful a return to nine furlongs will benefit the grey colt.

“He ran well in the Remsen as a 2-year-old, so you would think at this point that the mile-and-an-eighth will be good for him,” Rice said.

Arctic Arrogance will sport blinkers for the first time in the Withers after wearing them for his last few morning workouts.

“Lezcano breezed him in them,” said Rice. “We felt with the blinkers, he went on by himself rather than being reluctant to leave other horses. It’s going well.”

Arctic Arrogance will emerge from post 1.

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Juddmonte’s Kentucky homebred Jungfrau [post 3, Dylan Davis] makes his stakes debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott on the heels of a third-out graduation on December 31 at Gulfstream Park.

The grey son of Arrogate raced close to the pace throughout the 1 1/16-mile contest under Jose Ortiz before challenging Expect More from the three-quarters call and into the turn. The two continued to battle down the stretch with Expect More carrying Jungfrau wide at the three-sixteenths and crossing the finish line a nose ahead in a final time of 1:46.33. A steward’s inquiry and an objection from Ortiz resulted in the disqualification of Expect More and Jungfrau was awarded the maiden-breaking victory.

The win came after two fourth-place finishes at New York racetracks, including his September 3 debut at Saratoga Race Course that was won by subsequent Grade 3 Nashua winner Champions Dream. Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte’s General Manager, said Jungfrau has gained valuable experience in each of his outings.

“He’s a horse that, at this stage of the game, you’ve got to step it up another notch,” said O’Rourke. “He definitely has been stepping things up with every performance, as 3-year-olds often do. I think professionalism alone will improve his performance. He’s been to New York and Florida, he’s been inside of horses and outside of horses. He’s run green but he’s had plenty of experience while doing all of that.”

Jungfrau made his final preparations on Sunday, breezing five-eighths in 1:02.60 at Payson Park Training Center.

LC Racing’s Ninetyprcentmaddie [post 6, Abner Adorno] will look to notch his first open-company stakes victory on the heels of a game runner-up effort in the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile on January 3 at its namesake track.

Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., the Pennsylvania-bred son of Weigelia broke from the inside post in the field of eight under Paco Lopez and dueled for the early lead before settling in third at the half-mile call. He angled out down the stretch under strong urging from Lopez, but settled for second 2 3/4 lengths in arrears of the victorious Recruiter.

Reid, Jr. said that while the inside post hampered Ninetyprcentmaddie in his last start, he is confident Adorno can secure outside position with added ground.

“I have no doubt it hurt him last time,” said Reid, Jr. “Paco got him back outside and he made a nice second run. I look forward to getting him a chance to settle on the outside and see what happens. Going a mile and an eighth, he should be able to do it very comfortably and he should be on or near the lead.”

The Withers will be both the first start beyond sprint distances and outside of Parx for Ninetyprcentmaddie, whose lone stakes victory was a wire-to-wire 3 1/2-length score in the 5 1/2-furlong Whistle Pig against fellow Pennsylvania-breds in August. The bay colt’s breeding suggests he should relish a stretch out, with his full-sister, Ninetypercentbrynn, earning all four of her lifetime victories around two turns for Reid, Jr.

“I think he’ll handle it fine,” said Reid, Jr. “His big sister was a natural route horse. He’s got a great head on his shoulders and a grinding way of running, so I think he’ll handle it well.”

Ninetyprcentmaddie had his final breeze for the Withers on January 28 at Parx, covering a half-mile in 49.83 seconds.

“He had a sensational breeze the other day,” said Reid, Jr. “He went 49 and change and did it like breaking sticks. He came out of it real well.”

Mr. Amore Stable’s New York homebred Andiamo a Firenze enters from a distant fifth-place finish in the aforementioned Jerome for trainer Kelly Breen. There, he stalked the pace under Kendrick Carmouche, but failed to fire after racing in the two-path around the turn, finishing 10 lengths in arrears of Lugan Knight.

Andiamo a Firenze is in search of his first victory since the Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in August sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs against fellow state-breds at Saratoga. He scored the 5 1/2-length victory after a prominent trip under Irad Ortiz, Jr., notching both his first triumph against winners and his first stakes coup. That effort came on the heels of a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Sanford in July at the Spa and a debut maiden score in June at Belmont Park.

The dark bay son of Speightstown, who is a three-quarter sibling to multiple Grade 1-winner Firenze Fire, earned another stakes placing in October at Finger Lakes Racetrack when defeated a nose by Acoustic Ave. in the New York Breeders’ Futurity. There, he finished one length ahead of the filly Stonewall Star, who exited that effort to win the Key Cents in November and the Franklin Square on January 22 at the Big A.

Frankie Pennington, who takes over the reins from an injured Carmouche, will ride from post 7. 

Completing the field are trainer James Chapman and Stuart Tsujimoto’s graded stakes-placed Prove Right [post 2, Jose Gomez]; Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show [post 4, Manny Franco], who scratched out of the Grade 3 Southwest on January 28 at Oaklawn Park in favor of this spot for trainer Brad Cox; and Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England’s stakes-winner General Banker [post 5, Eric Cancel], who finished third in the Jerome last out for trainer James Ferraro.

The Withers is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which also features the $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield for sophomore sprinters in Race 3. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.