Shotski has a big shot in Withers Stakes
The Kentucky Derby chase returns to Aqueduct Saturday with a stakes featuring the winner of one of New York’s biggest stakes for 2-year-olds.
Shotski, who captured the Remsen Stakes in his last start, heads a field of eight 3-year-olds in the $250,000 Withers Stakes.
The 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 stakes is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series with the winner getting 10 points toward a spot in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Second place is worth four points, third two and fourth one.
Shotski established himself as a Triple Crown candidate in December when he posted a gate-to-wire victory in the Remsen, a Grade 2 stakes at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Withers.
“What I liked most about his Remsen win was that he put four lengths on the field at the top of the stretch. He ended up only winning by a half-length, but it was his first time going two turns,” trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer said. “We know he likes the track, and we know he can get the distance. We’re very happy with his training and he’s had a good series of works. Physically, he looks very strong.”
“He’s very adaptable. He showed us that he can be up close to the pace. He’s good from the gate. I would have to think that he would probably be in the first three early on.”
Shotski has started four times with two wins.
Jockey Luis Saez will be flying in from Florida to ride him in the Withers.
The field also includes Portos, a runaway winner of a maiden race by 10 ¾ lengths at Aqueduct in his last start for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He’s doing well. He came out of his last race in good shape. It was his fourth start and he’s continued to mature each time he’s gone into the gate,” said assistant trainer Byron Hughes, who is handling Pletcher’s New York-based stable. “We really think he appreciates going two turns, so we were glad to see him break his maiden the way he did in his last start. It looks like a talented field, but he’s certainly shown us enough in the mornings to think he can compete, especially at the distance.”
The field also includes Monday Morning Qb and New Commission, who ran 1-2 in the Heft Stakes at Laurel.
“He made a couple of mistakes in his last start and didn’t break that cleanly and he switched leads after he turned for home,” said Robert Reid, who trains Monday Morning Qb. “So, there’s a couple of things we’ve been trying to refine and work on since his last start, but he’s been doing better in the mornings. Now, he just has to prove it in the afternoon.
“I don’t think (the distance) will be a problem with his pedigree. He’s had a few three-quarter gallops in him and he has a good head on his shoulders. I know it’s a big jump from seven-eighths to a mile and an eighth around two turns, but I think he’s up to it.”
The rest of the field includes Mr. Shortandsimple, Max Player, Prince of Pharaohs and Vanzzy.