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Samraat Ekes Out Thriller in Withers!

That’s three Kentucky Derby preps in a row in which I’ve picked the winner correctly… this won’t last, I know it.

Congrats to everyone who selected winner Samraat ($9.80 return of a $2 WPS), who held out in a furious duel with Uncle Sigh ($4.80 return of a $2 Place/Show) to win the round 2 race of the Withers (III) at Aqueduct! Third place went to Scotland ($3.10 return to $2 show). I’ll have the leaderboard updated momentarily, we do have two ties for first and second:

In the lead are Behindthecounterinasmalltown and Iadoreunna, who chose both winners the first two rounds! Tied for second are Sinningincowboyboots and Thetrackrecord.

Alas, there are still 8 more races! Come back around next week to submit picks for the Robert B. Lewis (II) at Santa Anita!

Withers Welcomes 6-Horse Field Headed by Samraat


Revolutionary, 3rd place in last year’s Kentucky Derby, made himself known in the Withers Stakes.

Week 2/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest: Submit your choice of horse up to 20 minutes through this link before the scheduled post time of 4:20pm EST for this race. Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.

A small field is up to challenge one another for 17 total Derby points on Aqueduct’s road to the Kentucky Derby in the well-respected Withers Stakes (III). While two top New York-breds will likely command the majority of the betting pools, this is a fairly even race where anything could happen as all of these colts are looking to improve in this race.

$250,000 Withers Stakes (III) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on inner track dirt at Aqueduct. Post Time: Saturday, February 1 at 4:20pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Uncle Sigh - Pablo Morales, 116 lbs, Gary Contessa - Coming from a very respectable New York trainer in Contessa, the Indian Charlie New York-bred colt was a game 2nd in his debut before simply romping in his second start back in late December despite floating a bit wide. Uncle Sigh has proved he loves the Big A’s inner track with a win on it at this distance and has the pedigree to be potent. He should be more than ready for a new challenge and has shown he can run loose as well as head-to-head with others.

2) Street Gent - Irad Ortiz Jr, 116 lbs, Leah Gyarmati - Fresh off his maiden win back on December 1 over the highly-regarded Tourist, the Street Sense colt will vouch how good the red-hot Gyarmati barn is going to be this year. He won after switching to a pacesetting position and to the inner track, where that setup is typically favored. However, he will not have it easy in this class test with multiple horses likely apt to try that setup. Ortiz is a 20% rider so far, and Street Gent flaunts my ideal workout pattern of smart short bullets paired with mile breezes. Watch those Street Senses!

3) Scotland - Kendrick Caramouche, 116 lbs, Tony Dutrow - Still a maiden heading into a deeper class, the Horse Greeley colt has made an impression on a few already. He raced a good 3rd last out in the Jerome (II) in January behind Noble Moon and Classic Giacnroll in a race that might have worked against him. He has shown improvement and has run well enough against classy company like Surfing USA and Juba. He improved very mildly switching to the inner track and has not yet shown the kind of kick that convinces me he can win on Saturday for this particular race.

4) Classic Giacnroll - Cornelio Velasquez, 116 lbs, Lisa Guerrero - Both of the Giacomo colt’s 2 wins in 6 starts came in 6-furlong dashes at Parx, which he stole coming from off quick paces. He made up substantial ground late in his last two starts, but couldn’t close the gap on Noble Moon last out in the Jerome (II). An excellent bet if you think there’s going to be a wild speed duel going on up front.

5) Samraat - Jose Ortiz, 118 lbs, Rick Violette - The undefeated entry of the field, the Noble Causeway colt has won each of his three starts by open daylight, the smallest margin being 3 lengths away from the second place horse, with a clear intention of grabbing that lead and holding on. Violette ships Samraat back to his stomping grounds to follow-up on that romping Damon Runyon win over the inner back in December. The horse of the field to beat, he packs some of the best numbers and will likely play “catch me if you can” with this field.

6) Honorable Judge - John Bisono, 118 lbs, Robert Reid - 2-for-3 thus far in his lifetime, the full brother to BC Marathon winner Afleet Again (woop!) comes to the Big A after clinching an allowance win at Parx coming from off the pace, an easy win over Afleet Accompli, who was outclassed here in the Remsen (II) back in November. Honorable Judge was fleeced well enough in his only other stakes start in the Iroquois (III) at Churchill Downs. I don’t feel like this is his race, and certainly not off a 3-month layoff and a move up in class.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Samraat

2) Classic Giacnroll

3) Uncle Sigh

For handicapping Aqueduct’s inner, I’m moving with horses with some speed and some potential to move up. Samraat looks extremely tough; even for those who have found gaps of vulnerability in this field for the likely favorite, he’s still going to have to trip or something to expose the chinks in his armor. I like Classic Giacnroll from a potential setup angle as he can whittle down any weakening foes late and possibly improve a bit. Uncle Sigh may or may not gas out trying to chase Samraat… and I’m going to gamble the latter is the better of the two heavyweights.

Value Pick: Not much… roll with Classic Giacnroll (5-1)

Contest Wager: Samraat

Week 2 of the Derby Handicap is on!

Post draw happened yesterday for the Withers Stakes, which unfortunately came up pathetically small and lopsided… I personally blame the frightful cold the U.S. has been getting this winter for discouraging bigger fields at Aqueduct. I’ll still have an analysis up probably tomorrow sometime, but here are the horses:

  1. Uncle Sigh
  2. Street Gent
  3. Scotland
  4. Classic Giacnroll
  5. Samraat
  6. Honorable Judge

When you’re ready to submit your contest wager, head over to this Jotform link. Official prize list is coming up soon!

Weekend Stake Tip: Game Face On Dude!

Clear weather and fast tracks set this weekend’s racing schedule off on a high note, but that didn’t stop certain heartbreaking results from happening. I ventured into my first foray at a pick 4 (I had only done one pick 3 before, which I’d won), and while I succeeded in lasting all four races, the payout was lower than my investment due to all but one of the lower-odds entries winning— lucky for me I had gambled free credit money, so I didn’t technically lose anything. BUT STILL!

It has become extraordinarily evident to me over time that Mike Smith has Chantal Sutherland figured out. Blame part of his genius on riding closers, part of it on her using all the tricks he’s taught her. Nevertheless, there was little fear figuring out the winner of Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes (II) at Santa Anita, as Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) runner-up Game On Dude would make his 2012 debut with Chantal against Mike Smith on recent San Pasqual (II) winner Uh Oh Bango. “He didn’t really break,” Sutherland would comment later to HRTV, as the gelding had to make an uncharacteristic hike from the back early as opposed to his usual immediate pace-setting. Once clear of the rear, “the Dude” began coasting easily along the backstretch, appearing to beg Chantal to give him his head… and she did, as the backstretch ran out, letting the Dude grab a two-length advantage which he kept widening and widening. Mike Smith got up for the show, but there was absolutely no beating Game On Dude that day. I think we’ve seen our first Horse of the Year contender already by the way he ran that 1 1/8 mile race so easily! Watch partial replay/interviews below (why aren’t tracks updating their videos lately?!)

The three-year-old Derby prep season continued with a few good, eye-opening races in the Withers (III) (won easily by Alpha… perhaps a little too easily suggesting he’s not being tested appropriately), the Sam F. Davis (III) (won by the talented maiden Battle Hardened, watch out for this guy!), and then the Round 2 race of the Derby Handicap Contest, the messy Robert B. Lewis (II) over at Santa Anita. I think it was too mucked-up to really count, honestly, as there was too much of a jumble at the end while allowing longshot winner I’ll Have Another to coast to an easy win. The excellent runners in the race— Liasion, Sky Kingdom, and Rousing Sermon— never got their running room arranged with Liasion losing rider Rafael Bejarano mid-stretch. Joel Rosario figured out Empire Way well enough to put him up for second, which I was very pleased to see, but still… I’m throwing this race out, as I’m sure others are doing as well. Watch replay

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.

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