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OZONE PARK, NY – Saturday’s $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct serves as the second of four Kentucky Derby (G1) prep events in the state of New York.
The winner will earn 10 important points towards the Kentucky Derby, second 4, third 2, and fourth 1. The Withers drew a field of nine and is the penultimate event on the 9-race card with a local post time of 4:25 PM.
Headlining the field is the Jerome Stakes winner Capo Kane, who has won 2 in a row coming into this event. He set the early pace without much pressure before blasting home to a 6 1/4-length score. He drew post 3 and will have jockey Dylan Davis aboard for the ride.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has two entries in this field, the flashy Gulfstream Park shipper Donegal Bay and the local Overtook. The pair drew side-by-side, with Donegal Bay in post 6 and Overtook in 7. Both should enjoy this race’s 1 1/8-mile distance.
“There could be a good pace,” Pletcher said. “Overtook wants to settle and make one run, so we’ll allow him to do that. (Donegal Bay) 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 (from them both).”
Not to be outdone, fellow powerful New York trainer Chad Brown entered Risk Taking. After struggling in his first 2 starts, the Medaglia d’Oro colt was victorious over this track and distance. Eric Cancel has the mount from post 5.
The full field from the rail out: Shackqueenking, Royal Number, Capo Kane, Mr. Doda, Risk Taking, Overtook, Donegal Bay, Civil War, and Eagle Orb.
#5 Risk Taking – Brown is off to a slow start this year, but that probably won’t last long. Things could turn around here, considering Risk Taking’s impressive win at this distance last time out. He also should get plenty of pace up front that will benefit his late-running style in a big way. If he can move forward just a bit off of that last effort, then he should be set up for a big run in this spot.
#7 Donegal Bay – He was impressive last time out when breaking his at Gulfstream Park by 4 1/4 lengths. That form should transfer well to Aqueduct and he should enjoy this stretch out in distance. He also drew outside of all the other speed, which should give rider Kendrick Carmouche plenty of options.
#2 Royal Number – This colt has the field’s highest TimeForm Speed Figure, which he earned last time out in a Laurel Park allowance. That win came around two turns as well, adding to his intrigue. The jump from Laurel Park to the NYRA circuit is the biggest question mark; however, this is a good spot for him to give it a try.
#3 Capo Kane – It would be hard to not play this horse right back after his impressive Jerome Stakes victory last time out. The pace setup will be a bit tougher for him, though, and he also must stretch out in distance against a better field than he’s ever faced. Enough factors exist that we want to beat him on top.
#9 Eagle Orb – This New York-bred is very consistent, hitting the board in 5 of his 6 starts including second in the Jerome, though he was no threat to Capo Kane. This pace setup looks a bit better for Eagle Orb, but he might not be quite good enough to pick up the major prize.
#6 Overtook – The connections are strong with horse; however, his efforts on the track have not been impressive. He did win last time out, which is good, but he seemed like he was all-out to get past the front-runners late. He can hit the board here, but we prefer others as far as a win candidate goes.
#1 Shackqueenking – This horse has never missed the board in 5 starts while also picking up 2 victories. He won the two-turn Howard County Stakes at Laurel Park 2 starts back and may get ignored with several bigger-name trainers entering the race, hinting that he’s the most logical longshot.
#4 Mr. Doda – This gelding ships in from Parx after breaking his maiden last time out. He might be heading in the right direction; however, it is never a good sign when it takes a horse 6 tries before winning for the first time. He seems unplayable in this spot.
#8 Civil War – After breaking his maiden at Monmouth Park against weaker company, this horse has had zero success on the NYRA circuit. It’s hard to make any case for him in this spot, which might be the toughest he’s faced yet.
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