Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now offers his regular analysis of the 2014 road to the Kentucky Derby with a look at the Grade III, $250,000 Withers on Saturday at Aqueduct at 1 1/6 miles.
#1 Uncle Sigh: Romping New York-bred MSW winner sure looked good when stretching to two turns last time in a breakthrough effort after just missing in the mud in his 6F debut, and now will try to bridge the gap to the open graded stakes ranks. Son of Indian Charlie drew perfectly for this much tougher assignment and has the natural speed be involved early, though there’s plenty of pace signed on, so taking up a stalking position might preferred. And that’s where the rub comes in, as this colt might get a little headstrong from the rail and have trouble settling early, so with a potentially disadvantageous race flow, it might be best to make him prove it; using underneath only.
#2 Street Gent: Son of Street Sense wired a 9f MSW last time to get his diploma and figures to be on or just off the early pace for an underrated Gyarmati, who does an excellent job with her stock. Long striding colt probably wants to get to the front, but the engine looks like a crowded car today, so he’s another who might need to show he can pass horses in the lane, which is a big if at this point. Improving runner surely has talent, but this might simply be a case of too much too soon, so let’s tab him for down the road; playing against.
#3 Scotland: Tony D. maiden ran well when third in the local GII Jerome and has plenty of upside, though he’s also spotting some important experience to his rivals. Stalker has shown he can pass horses in the lane, which is a big deal here as there’s a ton of speed entered and it’s not like Tony D. throws his horses to the wolves, so to see this son of Horse Greeley entered in a graded stakes as a maiden is meaningful. On the face of it, he’s not fast enough, but with a positive race flow and a two-turn tightener out of the way, you might want to give this dude another look; thinking he fires a biggie.
#4 Classic Giacnroll: The most experienced member of the field was a fine second in the Jerome in his two-turn debut, and that run showed he can play outside of the Mid-Atlantic as well. Son of Derby winner Giacomo has picked up his speed figures since adding Lasix two starts back and is one of the few who has shown he can stalk and pounce, which is a good attribute in this speedy field. Of course, on paper he’s really no faster than anyone else and has never won a race outside of Parx, so you’re allowed to be a bit skeptical. With ‘Uncle and Samraat entered you’ll get a fair price, but the gut says that when push comes to shove, he’s blinking; making him prove it.
#5 Samraat: Undefeated and untested New York-bred takes the logical step into open company after laughing at a trio of state-bred fields to kick off his career and might need to be caught today. Son of Noble Causeway has never been behind a horse in his brief career, so you have to think it’s a send mission here, as he showed in his one-turn runs that he can throw out 46 and change splits without blinking. The draw gives him some options, especially with speed to his inside, but the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thing applies here to a horse who might simply be a monster; makes it four in a row.
#6 Honorable Judge: The outsider in this six-pack took the worst of it at the draw and might be in for a wide trip today, as he has a short run into the first turn and could be floated a bit. On the plus side, he did win from off the pace going two turns at Parx when last seen in November, but this group is a lot tougher than that N1X group down the interstate. Son of Afleet Alex appears to be a useful sort but was also beaten a few furlongs the only other time he ran in a graded stakes, so this is asking a lot; needs softer to threaten.
#4 Classic Giacnroll