Aqueduct’s road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Saturday with the Grade III, $250,000 Withers Stakes. The 1 1/8-mile challenge drew a field of seven in search of valuable Kentucky Derby points. The Withers will be run as Race 9 of 10 on the day, with post time scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST. Be sure to play along in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game this weekend!
#3 MORETTI (3-1) showed belated interest in his November debut before graduating in style last December at these exact conditions. The speed figures to date aren’t flashy, but the half-brother to Battle of Midway is eligible to improve for trainer Todd Pletcher. MORETTI will race with blinkers in the Withers in a likely attempt to correct some of his greenness. Aqueduct’s leading rider, Manny Franco, takes over for John Velazquez, who is currently riding at Gulfstream.
#4 ADMIRE (15-1) is also a bit lacking speed figure-wise, but the pricey son of Cairo Prince ($360k) may move forward at a big price. He made steady progress late in his unveiling at six panels after a tardy start before stretching out to today’s distance. He caught a sloppy track but graduated with a solid effort after showing much more early interest. Jockey Eric Cancel has tactical options on this intriguing longshot.
#1 TAX (2-1, morning-line favorite) was a $50k claim two starts ago but made good on trainer Danny Gargan’s faith with a third-place effort in a highly-rated rendition of the Remsen behind Holy Bull favorite Maxiums Mischief last time out. It remains to be seen if TAX can duplicate that effort, and it’s concerning that Franco jumped off. Junior Alvarado will be in the irons instead.
The play: $5 exacta 3/4, $2 exacta 4/3, $2 exacta 3/1, $1 exacta 4/1 ($10)
DFJ analysis: Manny Franco has a bevy of good mounts lined up for Saturday, especially early in the card. Five of his first six assignments are 5-2 or less on the morning-line. Later on, he’ll get a leg up on MORETTI (3-1) in the Withers. Franco rides in all 10 races on the program.
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