The Road to the Triple Crown returned to New York on Saturday as a field of 8 three-year-olds contested the $200,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the Aqueduct inner track. Just 4,794 fans were on hand under overcast skies, strong winds, and temperatures near 30 degrees. Revolutionary, who broke his maiden in his fourth try last out, was sent off as the 3-4 favorite over the two-horse Darley Stable entry of Jerome (G3) fourth place finisher Long River and maiden winner Valid, sent off at 7-4, and 9-1 third choice Siete de Oros, second in the Jerome (G2) last out.
At the start of the Withers Stakes
Jockey Maria Remedio sent Siete de Oros to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 24.22, 48.18, and 1:12.48 over the fast track while pressed by 17-1 Smooth Bert. Siete de Oros continued to lead to the 1/8 pole through 1 mile in 1:38.01, but Revolutionary, last early, came through between horses to win by a neck over 16-1 Escapefromreality in 1:44.32. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Siete de Oros third.
Elliott Walden, president and CEO of winning owner WinStar Farm said, "Very impressed. Obviously things didn't go well out of the gate, but he hung in there and Javier did a nice job of being patient. Finally, when he got some room, he came running. When you're looking at a race like the Derby, potentially down the road, to get that kind of experience, it's invaluable. Nice race. I felt pretty good around the turn because they were so bunched up. It's not like he was 15 back, he was eight back, but he was in trouble, so you never knew if he was going to get through. You knew if he did get through he'd have some horse. It was nice to see him come running like that. He couldn't blow out a match in the winner's circle. We'll talk with Todd and we'll see. I'd be inclined to take him to Florida and regroup until that last round of preps. Probably just one more race (before the Derby). This proved he's worthy to keep on the trail. This race was worth three in terms of education."
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show
2 Revolutionary Castellano 3.50 3.00 2.10
3 Escapefromreality Ortiz 10.20 7.00
5 Siete de Oros Remedio 5.10
Winning Time: 1:44.32
$2 Exacta 2-3 30.00
$2 Trifecta 2-3-5 115.00
Right: Revolutionary heads back to the barn. Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher said, "We were a little bit handicapped going into the race without having a work 6 days out, but the horse has been training well and gets a lot out of his gallops. The horse has a tendency to not get away cleanly and got himself a little farther back than we would have liked. Things went from bad to worse from there, but Javier didn't panic and had faith in the horse. We've known all along the horse had ability. When you are pointing for the Derby, this is a huge steppingstone. That was a big step today against some proven horses."
Left: Revolutionary in the paddock before the race.
Right: Revolutionary heads out for the post parade. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "He didn't break that sharp and I didn't panic. I think the key with him is that you have to be patient. I could have gone around horses at the 3/8 pole because I had so much horse, but I just wanted to teach him something. I knew he could get it done; in my mind it was just waiting for the best opportunity to make a move. He's a classy horse. He kind of got intimidated a little bit between horses, he's a young horse, but I really like the way he did it. He split horses, finished very strong, and galloped out great. He's a horse with potential. Handicapping the race, I would have liked to be close to the pace - second, third, or fourth. It didn't work out that way, he didn't break that good, and I ended up almost last on the first turn. But the way the race developed, he learned a lot and I think he's going to go forward."
Left: Second place finisher Escapefromreality heads out for the post parade. The 16-1 shot raced 5th early about 2 lengths off the pace under jockey Jose Ortiz, then rallied late to get second beaten a neck. The Domenick Schettino trainee improved his record to 1 win and 2 seconds in 3 starts, earning $82,000 for owners MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables.
Right: Third place finisher Siete de Oros heads out for the post parade. The 9-1 second choice set the pace under jockey Maria Remedio, then faded late to get third beaten 2 lengths. He improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 6 starts, earning $138,950 for owner-trainer Ramon Preciado.
Head Heart Hoof wins the Toboggan Stakes (G3)
Immediately before the Withers, a field of 6 older horses sprinted 6 furlongs in the $150,000 Toboggan Stakes (G3). Johannesburg Smile was sent off as the 9-5 favorite off his win in an optional claimer where he was claimed by new owner Mike Repole. In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Head Heart Hoof, winner of the Truen Blue Stakes, and 3-1 third choice Mine Over Matter, second in the Turnofthecentury Stakes last out.
Channing Hill sent 11-1 longest shot P J's Magical Wink to the front down the backstretch through an opening quarter in 22.95 before Head Heart Hoof took over on the far turn through a half in 46.44. Head Heart Hoof opened up a 2 length lead in midstretch through 5/8 in 57.69, and held off late-running Johannesburg Smile by 1/2 a length in 1:09.86. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 10-1 Sinai third.
Winning owner Michael Dubb said, "At the time we claimed him, I thought he'd be a useful two-other-than type of horse, but I had hopes, especially in the wintertime. We ran him back, and he ran second in a stake race off the claim, but came back after that and didn't run great. We gave him some time, and had him at Laurel, Delaware and Monmouth and he wasn't doing what I wanted. I said, 'He's an Aqueduct horse, let's get him home to Aqueduct.' I sent him to Rudy, and he's getting better all the time. I'm just thrilled with him."
Left: Head Heart Hoof in the winner's circle.
Right: Head Heart Hoof in the post parade. Winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said, "It looked like he came back to us in very good shape. He loves the inner track, so I think that's why he's running this good right now. We're not doing too much to him. He's sound, he's whole, he's game. Right now I think he's peaking, so hopefully he'll keep doing that. The other horse is a very nice horse, but we got lucky. Cornelio did a good job letting Channing (Hill aboard Magical Wink) run his race, and he was able to control the pace on the outside. He got the jump on (Johannesburg Smile), and I think that's what got us to the wire."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Johannesburg Smile in the post parade. The 9-5 favorite raced in third early 2 lengths off the pace under jockey Javier Castellano, then rallied late to get second beaten 1/2 a length. The Todd Pletcher trainee improved his record to 8 wins, 6 seconds, and 9 thirds in 30 starts, earning $464,370 for owner Repole Stable.
Right: Third place finisher Sinai returns after the race. The 10-1 shot raced fourth 3 lengths off the pace under jockey David Cohen, then passed one horse to get third beaten 2 lengths. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds in 18 starts, earning $176,959 for owner Zayat Stables.
Cluster of Stars (inside) wins the Correction Stakes over Nichole H
Kicking off the stakes action on Withers day was the $100,000 Correction Stakes, with a field of just 4 older fillies and mares sprinting 6 furlongs. 8-5 second choice Cluster of Stars went to the lead early getting fractions of 23.08 and 46.17 while stalked by 1-2 favorite and last year's winner Nicole H. Nicole H briefly gained the lead at the 1/8 pole through 5/8 in 57.69, but Cluster or Stars fought back to win by a head in 1:09.66. It was a long 8 lengths back to 6-1 Singlet third.
Left: Cluster of Stars in the winner's circle. Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Exciting. She had little issues here and there and (this victory is) thanks to Turtle Bird's (Stable, owner) patience. It was impressive. Nicole H is an awesome filly, and our filly is very unseasoned; this is her third career start. We've thought she was special all along."
Right: Cluster of Stars in the post parade. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "She relaxed nice. I'm kind surprised Nicole H came up so quick; I didn't have a chance to respond. She got the jump on my horse, but my horse is such a sweet girl. She fought all the way. She didn't want to get beat today, that's for sure. She's very competitive."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Nicole H kicks up her heels in the paddock. The 1-2 favorite battled for the lead under jockey Channing Hill, led briefly but failed to hold off the winner. The Mike Hushion trainee, who won the Correction last year, improved her record to 10 wins, 11 seconds, and 2 thirds in 29 starts, earning $796,144 for owner Gem, Inc. (Dr. John Waken).
Right: Third place finisher Singlet in the post parade. The 6-1 third choice raced third 3 lengths back under jockey Cornelio Velasquez but could not improve, finishing third beaten 8 lengths. The Tony Dutrow trainee improved her record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds in 12 starts, earning $274,144 for owners Michael Dubb, Larry Brafman, and Daniel Ryan.
Princess of Sylmar wins the Busher Stakes
A field of five 3-year-old fillies went 1 1/16 miles on the inner track in the $100,000 Busher Stakes. 17-1 Kimono was sent to the lead by jockey David Cohen and she set fractions of 25.81, 51.12, and 1:15.32 while stalked by 5-2 second choice Kelli Got Frosty. Entering the lane, 1-4 favorite Princess of Sylmar, third early, powered to the lead and drew off to win by 7 lengths in 1:45.52. It was another 1/2 length back from Kelli Got Frosty to 14-1 Let Me Entertain U third.
Winning owner Ed Stanco said, "The Gazelle is absolutely a target for us because she can run the distance. She can go all day. I think she might be able to go more than 1 1/8. As you know that opens up many possibilities, so we're obviously very thrilled. She's nice and happy, and that's how we want to keep her. She's a New York horse and she likes cold weather. She grew up in cold weather on the farm, and she's going to stay right here."
Left: Princess of Sylmar in the winner's circle. Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher said, "It was a very pedestrian half-mile and he had to put her into the race a little earlier than we would have liked. But she was much the best and able to overcome that today. The plan is to wait for the Gazelle."
Right: Princess of Sylmar heads out for the post parade. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "She broke pretty sharp today and I didn't see much speed in the race. I was concerned a little bit in the first turn, the pace was slow, everybody was rating. I felt that we went so slow, I should be able to put her outside. I thought, 'Let me control the race, let me go after the horses in the front.' She's very amazing. She has a long, beautiful stride, but at the same time, when you ask her, she's got a quick reaction. I moved kind of early because I felt the pace was too slow, and she finished unbelievable. I didn't force her to go by the horse - I just asked her a little bit and she took off."
Left: Second place finisher Kelli Got Frosty returns after the race. The 5-2 second choice stalked the pace in second under jockey Cornelio Velasquez but was no match for the winner. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 6 starts, earning $195,944 for owners Sunshine Stables, Lee Sacks, Aubrey Flanagan, and Gary Tolchin.
Right: Third place finisher Let Me Entertain U in the post parade. The 14-1 third choice raced fifth early under jockey Jose Ortiz, then passed tired horses late to get third beaten 7 1/2 lengths. The Tom Albertrani trainee improved her record to 1 win, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $52,233 for owner-breeder Elizabeth Valando.