Aqueduct: The GIII, $250,000 Withers at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10-4-2-1)
by Brian Nadeau
#1 Mr. Shortandsimple (30-1): Huge longshot is one of several in here with speed, and this draw kind of forces his hand early, so while you have to respect Rodriguez, this son of Pioneerof the Nile won’t be scaring anyone off that sloppy N2L win here last time; pop and stop expected.
#2 Monday Morning Qb (4-1): Expected pace player has won two straight going one turn and will now try and carry his speed, while running past seven furlongs for the first time, too, so there are some serious hurdles here. Son of Imagining goes for a sharp Reid barn that rarely ships without a purpose, so you have to think they have high hopes for this colt, especially off that Laurel sprint stakes win, but what looks like a hot pace and a much tougher field, mean he’s up against it here; not seeing it.
#3 Max Player (9-2): One of two here for Rice took the road less traveled to get here, as he’s been at Parx for both runs, which is odd in and of itself for a barn that runs countless horses here. Honor Code colt has run two turns in both starts and improved a lot in the MSW win in the slop last time, and his stalking style should fit with this group, but this still seems like a bridge too far; midpack finish may be his ceiling.
#4 New Commission (15-1): Trainer-owner Day brings yet another sprinter who could be a pace player on the stretchout, as this Field Commission colt has been on or just off the lead in his last two at 7Fs and figures to be involved in some way early. If you like ‘Qb, then you have to like this one, too, as he was just three quarters of a lengths behind in second last time, but this one seems even more of a reach; tough to endorse.
#5 Shotski (2-1): ML favorite made the lead and forgot to stop when winning the GII Remsen over the track and distance when last seen in November but needs to back that up here, as the win came over a very inside-speed-favoring track. Son of Blame sure took to two turns for O’Dwyer, and he did show in his MSW sprint win that he doesn’t need the lead, which is a good thing, as he’s going to have to run a lot faster to make the point than he did last time. On the face of it, he’s a major player, but there are some issues here, and the price will be an underlaid one, so let’s keep looking; making him prove it.
#6 Prince of Pharoahs (8-1): The less fancied of the two from Rice has been going the right way and was a very solid second to hotshot Independence Hall in the local Jerome last month and will now try two turns for the first time. American Pharoah colt is sure bred for the added distance and turn he gets here, and he’s another that has shown the ability to come from off the pace, so that bodes well for his chances. The price should be right, too, as he’s sitting a bit under the radar, but he’s also on the improve for a potent barn and catches two favorites who could be a bit vulnerable today; upset special.
#7 Vanzzy (8-1): Speedy son of Verrazano went up to Woodbine and wired their Display going two turns on the Polytrack but also showed some solid dirt form at Parx while going two turns as well. The wide draw did him no favors, as he’s likely got to go from here, so he’s another who should be involved early, and Pino is one of the best Midatlantic conditioners there is, but this is a big ask; know him early, not sure about late.
#8 Portos (3-1): Recent MSW winner for Pletcher has logged a lot of furlongs in his four starts, as he’s been this distance in three of four races, and he broke through over the track at this trip last time. Tactical son of Tapit is sure bred to be a star, and he did make a lot of friends with the romp last time, but it wasn’t as visually impressive as the big margin suggests, so tread lightly before jumping on here. And that’s before even mentioning how tough this draw is, as he’s going to be extremely wide into the first turn, and it’s not like he has a lot of margin for erro,r either, so while he may be going places, this might not be his day; second-best.
#6 Prince of Pharoahs
#3 Max Player