OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Revolutionary will face stakes company for the first time off a dominant maiden victory when he competes in the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Withers is the first race in New York on Churchill Downs’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, with the winner to receive 10 points, the runner-up 4 points, the third-place finisher 2 points, and the fourth-place finisher 1 point.
WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary began his career in a pair of sprints. He was third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in September at Saratoga Race Course after being severely impeded at the start. He subsequently reported home second by 2 ¼ lengths in October at Belmont Park.
After breaking sluggishly and racing evenly late to finish third by 4 ¼ lengths in a one-turn mile race in November at Aqueduct, Revolutionary put it all together on December 28 on the inner track, taking command at the quarter pole and running away to an 8 ½-length score.
“[The improved performance] was a combination of a lot of things, the stretch out the, two turns, the clean start, a good trip,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “We weren’t surprised he did something impressive, and it was the first time everything had gone smoothly. He didn’t have a bad trip when he was second at Belmont, but I thought the track that day was very speed favoring and it was hard to make up ground. A talented horse got loose and we just couldn’t run him down, and he had a horrible start in the one-turn race at Aqueduct.”
Another clean start will give Revolutionary his best chance of employing his tactical speed, Pletcher said.
“The key will be for him to break cleanly and put himself in a good stalking position, or if it were a paceless race he could possibly be on the lead,” said Pletcher. “The main thing is we want him to get away cleanly and get into a nice rhythm.”
Javier Castellano has picked up the mount aboard Revolutionary, who drew post position 3 and was installed as the 3-5 morning-line favorite.
Siete de Oros nearly upset the Grade 2 Jerome on New Year’s Day at Aqueduct, battling with Vyjack to the wire and settling for second by a head at 41-1. The Jerome was Siete de Oros’ first start in blinkers.
“He ran a really good race. Blinkers made a big change with him; he was concentrating more,” said owner/trainer Ramon Preciado. “After the race, he was even better than he came in. I’m hoping he’ll run a really good race [in the Jerome].”
Before the addition of blinkers, Siete de Oros’s accomplishments included a pair of wins and a third in the Pennsylvania Nursery, all at Parx Racing.
Maria Remedio will come in from Parx Racing to ride Siete de Oros, 8-1 on the morning line, in the Jerome. The colt drew post 6.
The Withers also attracted the third- and fourth-place finishers from the Jerome, Amerigo Vespucci and Long River.
Amerigo Vespucci, who was also second in two stakes at Laurel Park, will be ridden by Erick Rodriguez. Trained by Timothy Tullock, Jr. for Aldie Germania Farms, Amerigo Vespucci is 15-1 on the morning line.
Long River, a three-quarter-length maiden winner in December at the Big A, settled in midpack and picked up the pieces to finish fourth in the Jerome. He and fellow Darley Stable representative Valid form a coupled entry that was made the 7-2 morning-line second choice.
“We’re learning more about [Long River] all of the time,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He might appreciate more ground. He’s very sharp. The first two kind of got the slip on us; they had a little more turn of foot. We still think our colt is very, very talented, but we might be looking for more ground. I think he can handle two turns on the inner track just fine, but as the races get longer it can only help.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the assignment aboard Long River from the rail.
Valid enters the Jerome off a 3 ¾-length maiden win on December 31 at Laurel.
“He’s improving, so it’s good timing to see where we fit in,” said Magnuson.
Junior Alvarado will ride Valid from post 2.
The Withers field also includes impressive maiden winner Escapefromreality, maiden Champion Boy, and Damon Runyon victor Smooth Bert.
The even-money morning-line favorite for the Busher is King of Prussia Stable’s Princess of Sylmar, who is unbeaten in three route starts.
Fourth on debut in a Penn National sprint in October, Princess of Sylmar returned to that venue in November to break her maiden by 19 lengths in a one-mile race. Her two most recent starts were wins at one mile, 70 yards at Aqueduct: a 5 ¼-length optional claiming triumph on December 13 and a 7 ½-length romp in the Busanda on January 5.
“The only thing that surprised us is that she didn’t win first time out at Penn National,” said Pletcher. “I think it’s just a function of wanting two turns, so she has been very impressive since then.”
Princess of Sylmar will depart from post 2 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
In the Busher Pletcher will also send out Kimono, who will stretch out off a fifth in the six-furlong Ruthless on January 12, and Marcellina d’Oro, fifth in a Laurel optional claimer on January 19.
The main challenger to Pletcher’s triumvirate is Kelli Got Frosty, who has previously raced exclusively against New York-breds. She got up by a half-length in the NYSS Park Avenue in November and aired by 9 ½ lengths in the East View on December 9.
Let Me Entertain U completes the Busher field.