Brian’s Derby Preps: The Withers

Aqueduct: The GIII $200,000 Withers at 1 1/16 miles

#1 Long River: The first half of a sharp Darley entry adds blinkers off a relatively disappointing fourth in the local GII Jerome, when he basically ran around the track without making an impact after a solid MSW win over the track. The good news is that was his first start against winners and that Vyjack, who was game in victory, isn’t here. The bad news is that the other two who beat him are back and the new shooters aren’t too bad either; not willing to swallow too short of a price, though he figures in the mix.

#1A Valid: Second half of the Darley entry enters off a laugher MSW win at Laurel going a one-turn mile and there’s little doubt the talent is here and he’s bred to be a good one. The worry is that it’s doubtful anyone in this spot is going to be scared off of that out of town win, so unless he moves forward in a big way, he’s hoping his stablemate carries the torch; tabbing for down the road.

#2 Revolutionary: Pletcher colt finally put it together in a big way when breaking his maiden in extremely fast time over the track in December, and if he runs that figure back, the rest are aiming at second-money. On paper he’s the one to beat, but he does tackle winners today and there’s the worry of the bounce too, but at this point he’s simply a better horse than what he meets in here; seems poised to break into the graded stakes ranks.

#3 Escapefromreality: Intriguing New York-bred steps outside the state-bred ranks, stretches out and tries open company for the first time, not to mention graded stakes foes, so the hurdles are high, though his talent is undeniable. Speedy sort should be winging early off those two sprint starts and there’s not a ton of speed to prevent him from making the lead, should they want it, so that bodes well. The steep class rise may get him overlooked in the wagering, but he’s bred for this trip, figures to clear early and might very well get brave off the far turn; don’t sell him short.

#4 Amerigo Vespucci: Improving runner adds blinkers off a fine third in the Withers and he certainly didn’t disappoint himself in his local bow, so there’s some luster in this corner. We’ve mentioned that Vyjack isn’t here so that makes him look even better, but he still needs to improve some to get his picture taken and he could be set to regress, as opposed to move forward; prefer to limit his use to the bottom of the exotics.

#5 Siete De Oros: So was it the blinkers, a fast main track going two turns, or the inner dirt that led to a huge second, when beaten just a head in the Jerome at 41-1? That’s the questions handicappers will have to ask themselves as he figures about 10 times less than that price today. The positives say he’s an improving 3-year-old who might have found his calling, while the negatives say he might bounce and will be hard-pressed to reproduce that effort. If you believe in the Jerome then he’s your guy, but the gut says that was the exception rather than the rule; willing to make him do it again.

#6 Champion Boy: Longshot actually impressed when running third in his debut last month, but that was at six furlongs against horses that have never won a race, not some legitimate GIII types with Kentucky Derby aspirations. The talent to be a good horse seems evident, but at this point, this is biting off way too much more than he can chew; easy toss.

#7 Smooth Bert: State-bred ran good enough to win a sloppy renewal of the Damon Runyon in December but now tackles the toughest assignment of his career off the layoff, not to mention from a rough starting post. Tactical sort should be near the lead early, but when push comes to shove, he’s likely to be backing up in the lane; not seeing it.

Selections:

#2 Revolutionary

#3 Escapefromreality

#1 Long River

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