Two stops on the East Coast on Saturday as we get closer to the first Saturday in May.
Let’s start in New York.
The Grade 3 Withers goes as the 8th race at Aqueduct, and on paper looks like a showdown between FIRENZE FIRE and AVERY ISLAND. I would give the edge to FIRENZE FIRE with a race under his belt this season. ‘FIRE came from the back of the pack in the $150k Jerome, and even had to close into dawdling fractions. He was kept out into the middle of the track, and did what he needed to do to run his record to four wins from six starts. AVERY ISLAND hasn’t been seen since the beginning of December, and exits a typically weak Remsen race. ‘Island has worked well getting ready for his return to the track, but may need one to get his legs under him. MARCONI could be the one to upset the apple cart here having made both of his starts at 1 1/8 miles. He overcame an awkward beginning in his second try and easily romped home. MARCONI was an expensive yearly purchase costing $2 million at auction – likely brought on in part because he is a half-brother to Breeders Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man.
#1 FIRENZE FIRE – #2 MARCONI – #4 AVERY ISLAND
11 are lined up for $350k in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park – it will go as the last of 12 races on the card.
ENTICED looks the role of the favorite with two wins in three tries, with his loan beat coming in a Grade 1 to FIRENZE FIRE and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner GOOD MAGIC. ENTICED has worked well at Palm Meadows getting ready for his three year old season, and has every right to move forward being by a top sire, and out of a mare who was a three time Grade 1 winner and the runner up in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. But he is just one in a deep field of 11 to have a long look at. FREE DROP BILLY has missed the exacta just once in his five race career, and that was in the Breeders Cup Juvenile – so its easy to give him a pass for that. He is a neck away from a pair of Grade 1 victories and has a bullet work over the surface getting ready for this one. AUDIBLE romped in an off the turf first level allowance in a field of four – he could be over bet off that effort, but does go for top connections, Castellano and Pletcher. HOLLYWOOD STAR is interesting if he hangs out at his 12-1 morning line. He won his debut before a pair of runner up efforts in graded stakes and then drew the outside post of 12 in the BC Juvenile. He is another with a bullet drill at Gulfstream getting ready for the Holy Bull. TIZ MISCHIEF just missed behind ENTICED in a Grade 2 at Churchill and has been working lights out locally. He is one of three entered from trainer Dale Romans. PONY UP has been on the turf for his last three tries, but shouldn’t have trouble with dirt having just missed in his debut. Never hurts to have JR Velazquez in the irons, and Todd Pletcher calling the shots. MISSISSIPPI got saddled with the outside post of 11 and may have to use a little more speed early if he wants to work out a trip.
HOLLYWOOD STAR – 1. ENTICED – 2. FREE DROP BILLY