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Mychel Sanchez celebrates after winning the Withers Stakes aboard Uncle Heavy
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 cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 40's, and the track downgraded to muddy after rain most of Friday. Lightline was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 9, making his stakes debut off second place finishes in two straight allowance races. In to challenge him included 4-1 second choice El Grande O, second in the Jerome Stakes after winning the Sleepy Hollow Stakes, and 9-2 third choice Speed Runner off his maiden win at second asking on December 8 over the same distance at Aqueduct.
El Grande O under jockey Kendrick Carmouche was quickest away through an opening quarter of 24.14 before Eric Cancel sent 42-1 Khanate to take over through a half in 49.49 and 3/4 in 1:14.44 pressed by 11-1 Seminole Chief and stalked by El Grande O. Into the stretch, Seminole Chief tired allowing El Grande O to inherit a 3 length lead through 1 mile in 1:40.17. 9-1 Uncle Heavy, 6th early under Mychel Sanchez, came out 3 wide and rallied to get up by a nose in 1:53.79. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to late-running favorite Lightline third.
Photos courtesy Nancy Rokos
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 8 Uncle Heavy Sanchez 20.60 7.40 4.00 4 El Grande O Carmouche 4.90 3.10 3 Lightline Franco 2.60 Winning Time: 1:53.79 $1 Exacta 8-4 46.25 $1 Trifecta 8-4-5 147.74 $1 Superfecta 8-3-4-2 2,711.50
Left: Uncle Heavy in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Butch Reid Jr. said, "I have always felt all along with this horse, the further the better. He certainly proved that today. A mile and an eighth was obviously well within his grasp. He actually missed one of his breezes, and a few days of galloping due to the inclement weather, so for him to go ahead and do that is quite a testament to the horse's staying ability. He looked like he was just hitting his best stride about fifty yards from the wire. He really started stretching out nice. He's a great-dispositioned horse, too. He's a laid-back fellow and he's a big, strong young dude. We like him a lot."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Withers Stakes. Winning owner Michael Milam said, "This horse was bred by Barbara Reid [Butch Reid Jr.'s sister-in-law.] Butch's brother is Mark Reid, a Pennsylvania Hall of Fame trainer, who retired. Mark was my trainer and I bought the horse from Mark after Barbara bred him. Mark's nickname is 'Heavy,' so we called him Uncle Heavy because Butch's children and his nieces and nephews call him, 'Uncle Heavy.' I'm completely stunned by what happened. At the very end, I said, 'I think he might have got there!' Butch is a tremendous trainer.
Left: Uncle Heavy returns after the race. Winning jockey Mychel Sanchez said, "I thought the whole way around I was going to have a lot of horse to finish up. Usually, I'm a little far back but I was closer to them the whole way around. I was tracking them and just had to wait and hope he would finish like he always did. It seems like at the 3/8, when they sprint from him, they got away from him a little bit. He's a big horse, he doesn't have that quick reaction. Once he got fully going, he made up all the ground and made it look easy."
Right: Uncle Heavy gets a kiss after winning. Sanchez added, "At one point [in] middle stretch I was running good, but I couldn't make up ground. He kept digging in and we get closer and closer and once we saw the wire I said, 'I think we're going to get it.'"
Left: Second place finisher El Grande O returns after the race. Trainer Linda Rice said, "It was a really good effort. He took a lot of pressure early, I didn't really expect that much pressure early, but we had discussed just going ahead and putting him on the lead. He had been on the lead going shorter. I thought it was a great effort - heartbreaker. I thought we were home at the 1/8 pole." Jockey Kendrick Carmouche added, "He ran a good race, you know? I wish I didn't have to take that much pressure going down the backside, but there's nothing you can do. I thought he ran a better race this time than he did last time.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Lightline walks over before the race. The Brad Cox trainee improved his record to 1 win, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 4 starts, earning $99,850 for owner Albaugh Family Stables.
Super Chow wins the Toboggan.
Jockey Madison Olver sent Super Chow to a clear lead out of the chute through fractions of 23.69 and 47.66 while pressed by 13-2 fourth choice Stage Left and stalked by 19-2 Manny Wah. Turning for home Super Chow drew off, opening up a 3 length lead through 3/4 in 1:12.29, and finishing 4 1/4 lengths clear of Manny Wah in 1:25.10. It was a long 2 3/4 lengths back to late-running favorite Kinetic Sky third.
Left: Super Chow heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Madison Olver, celebrating her first stakes win said, "It means the world. It's a culmination of everything I have wanted since I first started with the racehorses. I'm just so grateful to the horses and everything they've given me. It's such a beautiful celebration of that relationship I've been able to have with the horses since I started. I learned I really need to trust the horse and [trainer Jorge] Delgado knows this horse so well. If you listen to him [Super Chow] and do what he says, and have that faith in the horse, if you give him the opportunity to win, he will win for you. I think he really loves that lead. He wants it and that's his thing."
Right: Super Chow returns after the race. Olver added, "Out of the gate, you kind of have to remind him that, ‘Hey, it's time to go.' Once he gets the lead, he gets into such a beautiful rhythm and you can get him to relax and he takes a breath for you. He gets very brave on the front end and he wants it just as much as you do. He wants to take it all the way. At the last eighth [I knew I had it], because I couldn't really hear them. I heard something behind me, but it's distant, it's not close enough. Since I'm out in the middle of the racetrack, I could see to the left side of me – I didn't see anyone coming."
Left: Second place finisher Manny Wah in the paddock before the race. Jockey Dylan Davis said, "He was handling the surface nice and I really liked what I felt. I thought I would really have to ride him but the riders weren't really giving them too much encouragement early, so I just let him break and he found himself there. I was really pleased with that because he didn't have to make up too much ground. He put up a game effort all the way to the wire, but we were second best."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Kinetic Sky returns after the race. The Richard Dutrow Jr. trainee improved his record to 6 wins, 8 seconds, and 7 thirds in 26 starts, earning $516,268 for owners Sanford J. Goldfarb, Alan Kahn, David Tanzman, and Steven Speranza.
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