A strong field of nine sophomores will travel 1 1/8 miles on the Aqueduct dirt in Saturday’s $250,000 Withers S. (G3). The 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby event will reward the top-four finishers with points on a 10-4-2-1 basis toward the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 1.
The Chad Brown-trained Risk Taking graduated in style at the distance in his first attempt since adding blinkers, and the bay colt could be poised for a big campaign in 2021. The Kentucky-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro is the Expert Pick of the Week.
Risk Taking debuted in October at Belmont Park and showed little in a six-furlong maiden special weight try. The bay caught a yielding turf course when stretching out for his second appearance and again raced just evenly, finishing a well-beaten fifth. Risk Taking was moved back to the main surface at Aqueduct in his third run, and he showed marked improvement in earning a hefty 98 Brisnet Speed figure for his work in his 2 1/4-length victory.
Bred to run all day, the three-year-old is from a classy female family including two-time Grade 1 star and standout sire Seeking the Gold. He has posted six solid morning drills in preparation for his stakes debut and will be ready to roll from off the pace beneath Eric Cancel.
Conditioner Todd Pletcher has a pair for the race, led by sharp Gulfstream Pak maiden hero Donegal Bay. The $90,000 son of Uncle Mo came off the shelf to deliver a smart win at short odds going one mile, and he is training like a horse sitting on another big performance as well. The gelded Kentucky-bred will be forwardly placed throughout with Kendrick Carmouche in the silks.
Battle-tested stakes winner Eagle Orb was no match late when second over a muddy course in the Jerome S. last time out, but he has a lot of appeal as an exotics contender from the outside post. The Rudy Rodriguez pupil has been first or second in four of his five career stakes attempts, and the son of Orb has the tactical speed to receive a good trip from the break in the Withers. Jorge Vargas Jr. will be in the controls
An exacta with #5 Risk Taking on top of #7 Donegal Bay and #9 Eagle Orb is the Best Bet of the Week.