Derby Future pool 7
Vanderbilt & Ballston Spa
Dylan Davis heads to the winner's circle aboard Max Player after the 2020 Withers Stakes
The highlight race at Aqueduct on Saturday was the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3), a 1 1/8 mile main track contest for 3-year-olds and a points-scoring event in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Conditions were typical for early February on Long Island, with dark overcast skies and temperatures in the low 40's. Remsen (G2) winner Shotski was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 8. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Portos, a maiden winner at 4th asking last out, and 9-2 third choice Monday Morning Qb, winner of the Heft Stakes at Laurel Park.
Max Player leads down the stretch in the Withers Stakes
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Max Player Davis 12.80 5.30 3.60 5 Shotski Saez 3.50 2.60 8 Portos Lezcano 2.60 Winning Time: 1:53.87 $1 Exacta 3-5 22.30 $1 Trifecta 3-5-8 70.50 $1 Superfecta 3-5-8-2 219.00
Left: Max Player in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Linda Rice said, "He's becoming more professional all the time in his morning workouts. Anyone that watched his two races at Parx could see he ran pretty green. He got pinched out a little bit into the first turn and Dylan did a nice job of getting him back into the race and into the clear. He had a bit of a wide trip, but it was a great ride by Dylan. He's shown us in the morning that he's had a lot of run at the end of his workouts."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Withers Stakes. Winning jockey Dylan Davis said, "He doesn't like too much kickback. He broke well for me today and right when the first kickback came to him into the first turn, he immediately got distracted. I got him back outside and he got on pace and started running well. Going into the second turn, he was traveling well and I had to get into him early because he started getting a little green. Once he got to the stretch he was all business."
Left: Max Player in the paddock. Rice added, "It's exciting. I would think the Wood Memorial would be the right spot. I don't want to shorten him up to one-turn in the Gotham. We'll point towards the Wood and whether we do something in between, George [owner Hall] and I will figure that out."
Right: Max Player returns after the race. Davis added, "He was fit and able to handle the 1 1/8 better than any other horse. It was nice and I was confident I could run them down. I think he can go farther. He still has some things to figure out with the kickback and trying to get into a good rhythm and getting that good kick when you need it, but I see more improvement for him ahead."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Shotski returns after the race. Jockey Luis Saez said, "He's a fighting horse. He's game. I don't think he saw (Max Player) outside because when somebody comes, he would take off again. He was right there fighting. He's brave. I didn't want to be on the lead. I wanted to sit second or third. When he broke and saw it clear, he took off. I wanted to cover up but everyone started grabbing. He was doing it by himself and he was pretty comfortable." Trainer Jeremiah O'Dwyer added, "He's a fighter for sure. Monday Morning Qb came to him but he fought back and wasn't going to let him go by. Linda's horse is obviously a nice horse and was a good bit away from him and didn't get a chance to see him coming to him. He doesn't know when to quit or lie down."
Right: Third place finisher Portos in the paddock. Jockey Jose Lezcano said, "My horse was coming late but it was hard to make up ground today."