How to bet the 2018 Withers Stakes

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

January 31st, 2018

The waters get deeper for Firenze Fire in the $250,000 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct, a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race over 1 1/8 miles. An old hand in the series already having won the Champagne (G1) and $150,000 Jerome, he'll look to push his point total to 30 with a 10-point score Saturday.

The confirmed class of the field given his win in the Champagne over eventual champion Good Magic and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) scorer Enticed, Firenze Fire will be the favorite again in the Withers, but not as heavy a one as three weeks ago in the Jerome.

Towering over his rivals on paper, Firenze Fire started at 2-5. However, over a wet and extremely slow-playing track, Firenze Fire needed nearly every bit of the mile to win by a half-length.

Four-for-five around one turn, Firenze Fire ran a nondescript seventh in his only two-turn attempt in the Breeders' Cup and will be tested for stamina in Saturday's one lap over the Big A oval. Given the relatively quick turnaround, stronger opposition, short price, and the possibility he'll be better suited to one-turn races, he might be worth standing against in the Win pool.

Avery Island captured the one-mile Nashua (G3) and finished a clear second as the favorite in the Remsen (G2) last fall. The latter race was at nine furlongs, and being a son of Derby winner Street Sense and out of an A.P. Indy mare, distance does not figure to be an issue.

Todd Pletcher has entered three. Coltandmississippi was well-beaten by stablemate Bal Harbour two back and last time was only third to Firenze Fire in the Jerome. Bal Harbour won the $82,000 Sapling at a two-turn mile last fall before taking the $75,000 Smooth Air and finishing second to the exciting Mask in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man, both around a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.

Neither of those two seem classy enough to upend Firenze Fire or Avery Island, but the $2 million purchase Marconi seemingly has a bright future. He's already raced twice at nine furlongs, winning a maiden second out by more than five lengths while adding blinkers. A grinding time, he's notably a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man.

How we're playing the Withers:

We'll take #4 Avery Island for the Win and put him on top of Exactas over Firenze Fire (#1) and Marconi (#2).