OZONE PARK, NY – Godolphin’s homebred Avery Island put forth an impressive performance on a chilly Saturday to win the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
Forwardly placed out of the 4-hole under Joe Bravo, Avery Island raced a 1/2-length behind and inside of Coltandmississippi through opening fractions of :23.32, :47.08, and 1:11.57. Commencing a move through the far turn, Avery Island hit the top of the stretch with a 2-length lead and held that gap to the wire, completing the 1 1/8-mile main track event in a final time of 1:51.01.
“The best horse won today,” said Bravo. “Avery has all the tools to be a good horse. He’s just learning to enjoy himself out there. He just relaxed. He just got better and stronger going down the lane. I opened up early around the turn. The quicker he goes, the better he is, but I didn’t want to turn it into a sprint, so if they are going to beat us, they’re going to have to outrun us from the top. Today, he did it nicely.”
Firenze Fire broke outward from the rail, hitting Marconi early before settling into the first turn. Never a threat to the winner, Firenze Fire beat Marconi to the line by a 1/2 length. Coltandmississippi faded to fourth, while Bal Harbour never overcame hitting the gate at the start and finished fifth. California Night was scratched.
The Withers is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Avery Island earned 10 points for the win, with Firenze Fire receiving 4 for second, Marconi 2 for third, and Coltandmississippi 1 for fourth.
The win was Avery Island’s third in five starts and was his second graded stakes score. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained son of Street Sense nearly doubled his career earnings to $365,332 with a record of 5-3-1-0.
“It was a great run,” said McLaughlin, who also trained Withers winners Divine Park (2007), Mr. Fantasy (2009), and Alpha (2012). “Joe Bravo rode him very well, letting the other speed go and sit second. He did everything right and finished strong. It was a nice win and we’re pleased with Avery Island. It looked like he was push-button, so it was great that he switched off that quick and then switched back on.”
Avery Island returned $4.30 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.10 to show. Firenze Fire brought back $3.40 to place and $2.20 to show, while Marconi paid $2.30 to show.