Brandon A. Quick | Sat 03/02/2018 - 06:12 EST

Withers Stakes Preview and Picks

Withers Stakes Preview and Picks

The Deserving Fave

Firenze Fire is the 9/5 second choice on the morning line, but will almost assuredly go to post at a much lower price and as the favorite. The Jason Servis trainee has won 4 of 6 career starts, including a Grade 3 win in the Sanford Stakes and a Grade 1 score in the Champagne Stakes.

The only knock against this colt so far is his dismal performance in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (7th beaten 20 lengths), but he rebounded nicely to win the Jerome Stakes Jan 13 to begin his three year-old season. It's also worth noting that Firenze Fire defeated eventual BC Juvenile winner and Two Year-Old Horse of the Year Good Magic in the Champagne Stakes last year. 

While slightly to significantly overmatched on paper, the rest of the Withers field has license to improve with racing experience. The mile and one eighth distance could also be an equalizer for these runners. 

The Field

  1. Firenze Fire 9/5
  2. Marconi 3/1
  3. Bal Harbour 6/1
  4. Avery Island 8/5 
  5. Coltandmississippi 12/1
  6. California Night 15/1

Avery Island is a solid horse, but as alluded to above, I am a little baffled by his morning line price. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee did nice work as a juvenile, winning 2 of 4 starts including the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes, but was subsequently a well-beaten second in the Grade 2 Remsen behind Catholic Boy. That race, however, was at the mile and one eighth distance which Firenze Fire has yet to try. 

The only other horse with mile and one eighth experience is Marconi, an intriguing lightly-raced colt trained by Todd Pletcher. So distance-oriented is this former $2 million purchase, both career starts have been at today's distance. This promising colt is a half brother to 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man and certainly offers a ton of upside. 

Bal Harbour, another colt from the Pletcher barn is a solid competitor and has two wins in minor stakes races. He should give an honest account of himself, but others appeal more. The other two starters, Colandmississippi and California Night, look as outmatched as their morning line odds suggest - maybe even more so.  

The Picks

Despite the short field, there is some long-term and short-term intrigue about this race. Firenze Fire may be the best horse now, but I've got my eye on Marconi in this spot. I also feel a nagging doubt about Firenze Fire's distance capabilities as a son of sprinter Poseidon's Warrior. Avery Island has worked well enough in preparation for this race, but I don't see him as a serious Derby contender. As the likely third choice, I'll roll with Marconi on top and see what happens. 

  • 1st: Marconi 
  • 2nd: Firenze Fire
  • 3rd: Avery Island 
  • Suggested Wagers: EXACTA: 2/1,4 and 1,4/2

      Category : Sporting News

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