Last year’s Withers Victor, TAX, ran 14th on the first Saturday in May but then went on to Win the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga.
SHOTSKI, after a Win in the Remsen here, returns to the Big A to head a field of eight 3-year-olds in this year’s Withers.
The entrants have an opportunity to acquire Derby qualifying points with a top four finish on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
The Withers is slated as Race 8 on a card of 9 with a scheduled Post Time of 4:24 p.m. Eastern. Here then a full field analysis along with Morning Line odds.
MR. SHORTANDSIMPLE [ML 30-1] Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. The Winner of a $30,000 Maiden Claiming race at Belmont Park in October, he also avoided getting claimed when he was Victorious in a $50,000 event at Aqueduct for non-winners of two races. He finished 4th in an Allowance race behind THREE TECHNIQUE, who was 2nd in the Smarty Jones last week at Oaklawn Park.
MONDAY MORNING QB [ML 4-1] Trainer: Robert Reid Jr. Jockey: Jorge Vargas Jr. After running 2nd in his debut at Parx, the Maryland-bred then came right back and broke his maiden as the odds-on favorite at the Pennsylvania track. He became a Stakes Winner at Laurel with a narrow Victory in the seven-furlong Heft.
MAX PLAYER [ML 9-2] Trainer: Linda Rice. Jockey: Dylan Davis. Sent to Parx Racing for his first two starts, he followed a narrow loss on debut with a four-length Victory going a two-turn mile on a sloppy track as the even money favorite. He was a $150,000 yearling purchase.
NEW COMMISSION [ML 15-1] Trainer: Diane Day. Jockey: Abner Adorno. Owner/trainer Diane Day ran this guy four times at Parx Racing until her Georgia-bred colt broke his maiden by 12 lengths on a good, sealed track as an even money favorite. He was runner-up in the Heft at Laurel Park, that being the second time he was defeated by MONDAY MORNING QB.
SHOTSKI [ML 2-1] Trainer: Jeremiah O’Dwyer. Jockey: Luis Saez. This $25,000 bargain yearling purchase will look to double his Derby points total after a front-running Victory in last month’s Remsen. He took the field wire to wire at odds of 8-1. He handled this nine-furlong distance that day, but his lead did dwindle down the stretch from 3 ½ lengths to a half length at the wire.
PRINCE OF PHAROAHS [ML 8-1] Trainer: Linda Rice. Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche. A New York-bred son of AMERICAN PHAROAH, was a five-length Winner of his second race at Belmont Park in October after debuting on the grass. Trainer Linda Rice rarely Wins with first-timers. She then gave him more than two months of rest before being part of a Dead Heat finish for 2nd in the Jerome that earned him three Derby points.
VANZZY [ML 8-1] Trainer: Michael Pino. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. The Parx -based colt Won on his second start at that track. Three weeks later, he ran 2nd in the Parx Juvenile after a less-than-ideal start. Shipped north to Woodbine, he became a Stakes Winner in the Display Stakes going a mile and a sixteenth while leading every step of the way on the synthetic surface.
PORTOS [ML 3-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Jose Lezcano. This home-bred son of TAPIT needed four starts to break his Maiden which he did on a sloppy Aqueduct track by more than 10 lengths. Previously, in his Saratoga debut at nine furlongs, he rallied from last to 3rd in a race taken by the eventual Lecomte (G3) Winner ENFORCEABLE.
Summary: SHOTSKI is a legitimate favorite in the Withers based on the way that he handled a solid field in the Remsen for a Graded Stakes Win. His lead did shrink in the final eighth of a mile. So maybe he is vulnerable to a horse with a strong closing move in the Withers.
On Saturday SHOTSKI may face pressure on the front-end from horses like MONDAY MORNING QB and VANZZY.
If the horses setting the pace tire, and shorten stride nearing the wire then DRB will give the late-developing PORTOS and/or PRINCE OF PHAROAHS a big Win chance. Both have great human connections and will offer better Value than SHOTSKI.
The Play: We will do a Trifecta Key using both the #6 and #8 on top of the #2-3-5-7. So the ticket will read; 6-8 with 2-3-5-6-7-8 with 2-3-5-6-7-8. An Exacta Box with 2-6-8, and Win bets on any of these six horses with odds of 3-1 or better.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.