Three weeks after winning the Jerome, Firenze Fire comes back today in the Withers, the first nine-furlong race of the 2018 Derby Trail series.
Previously – Robert Lewis
The race only drew six runners, but it’s a good group and a very interesting race. Let’s look at the field.
#1 Firenze Fire (9-5) – He’s the most accomplished runner in the race and ran a very good race last time, running down a loose-on-the-lead Seven Trumpets. The runner-up last time set a very slow pace and had everything his own way, but Firenze Fire got him. The question here is the nine-furlong distance. Trainer Jason Servis is attempting to answer that question today, and if all goes well, they’d likely skip next month’s one-turn Gotham. This horse has always struck us as more of a one-turn closer. Here’s what we wrote in our Jerome review:
He has a very strong kick in one-turn races and didn’t run especially well in the two-turn Breeders Cup Juvenile. He was reportedly sick before the Breeders Cup last year, so you can probably forgive that race, but even so, he does feel like a horse that will be better going one-turn as a late-runner than he does as as Derby horse.
With that in mind, we’ll play against him today while realizing he is a very talented horse.
#2 Marconi (3-1) – Todd Pletcher sends out this $2 million half to Mucho Macho Man by Tapit. He’s run both of his career races at this nine furlong distance and his last race, a maiden-breaker here at Aqueduct, was solid. He broke slowly, moved up on the backstretch into position, had to slightly steady, then ran on again into the lane before pulling away late. The problem with was the race came up very slow, earning just a 74 Beyer. He does want every bit of this distance, but he just feels like a plodder that will need a very fast pace.
#3 Bal Harbour (6-1) – He’s a two-time stakes winner, taking the Sapling at Monmouth going a two-turn mile and the Smooth Air at Gulfstream in the slop going a one-turn mile. Last time, he ran OK behind the impressive Mask while that one set a pedestrian pace. Still, Bal Harbour just sat back and came through unimpeded while barely leaving the rail. He’s going to have to run a lot better to win this race. We’re going to look elsewhere.
#4 Avery Island (8-5) – The Remsen runner-up stood little chance that day behind the impressive Catholic Boy (who is running in the Sam Davis next week) but ran taking dirt for the first time. He’ll be up closer today pressing the pace, which shouldn’t be too fast, and he is the most likely winner. It should be noted, however, that his Nashua win was against a weak field and his maiden win was in the slop.
#5 Coltandmississippi (12-1) – He hadn’t really distinguished himself since his slow maiden win at Saratoga in August. But in the Jerome last time out, he was surprisingly wrangled back behind the slow pace by Trevor McCarthy. He gets a rider switch to Junior Alvarado today and will be up close to the pace. We’re going to use him underneath but don’t see him out-kicking Avery Island from relatively the same stalking position.
#6 California Night (15-1) – He won a four-horse field after two of his rivals were scratched at the gate. This Mike Maker trainee won his 6.5 furlong debut setting the pace in the clear. He’s the pace-setter today but it’s a big step up to wire this field.
Overall Thoughts – With Firenze Fire stretching out to nine furlongs and coming back on just three weeks rest, there’s an opportunity to make a play in this race around Firenze Fire. Avery Island is the most likely winner and we will play him in the exacta with Marconi and Coltandmississippi while trying to beat Firenze Fire.