2018 Withers Stakes Results

Avery Island dazzled in his season debut against four rivals at Aqueduct Saturday, giving trainer Kieran McLaughlin and rider “Jersey Joe” Bravo some excitement on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Avery Island pressed the longshot leader and made a move on the far turn before opening up in the stretch and cruising home for a 2-length win over Firenze Fire, a 3-time stakes winner.
The victory was the 3rd in five starts for Avery Island, and his second graded stakes win after winning the Nashua (G2) in November at Aqueduct. He also was runner-up to Derby contender Catholic Boy in the Remsen (G2) in December.

"The best horse won today. He’s doing everything we’ve asked of him and getting better each time, so I don’t see why (he won’t get better with more distance)," Bravo said. "He’s smarter than he was for the Remsen. Physically he always had the tools, but he’s just learning about the game. He’s just going to keep getting better. Kiaran has him on the right trail. You can see each one of his races were better."

Avery Island covered 1 18 miles in 1:51.01. He paid $4.30 to win as the 6-5 favorite and earned 10 points on the Derby trail.

“It looked like he was push-button," McLaughlin said from Florida. "It was a great run. Joe Bravo rode him very well, letting the other speed go and sitting second. He did everything right and finished strong."

McLaughlin is mapping out Avery Island’s next start, but ruled out the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) March 10 at Aqueduct because of its one-mile distance. He could try the Tampa Bay Derby, but look for Avery Island in the April 7 Wood Memorial, which will be worth $1 million. Firenze Fire is likely a go in the Wood, and as a Grade 1 winner in the Champagne Stakes in October, the race will have a $250,000 bonus making it a $1 million race.