There were three Derby Trail races on Saturday and we’ll review them over our next three posts. As always, you can see all the previews and reviews using the Derby Trail category on the right sidebar.
Avery Island took the Withers for Godolphin and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in his first start since the Remsen in early December. His win also makes him 2-2 going nine furlongs.
Fractions: 23.32, 47.48, 1:11.57, 1:51.01 (1 1/8 miles)
Race Flow: Solid pace
Winning Beyer Speed Figure: 87
Pace Note: Going nine furlongs at Aqueduct, this is a strong pace. Coltandmississippi, inexplicably rated last time, was intent on the lead today and set the solid pace, tracked by the eventual winner.
On the Winner: Avery Island sat a good trip but pressed solid fractions in this Withers. He took the lead around the far turn comfortably under Joe Bravo and while he came off the rail in the lane, he always seemed in control, keeping his rivals at bay down the lane. It was a solid return considering it was a nine furlong race off a 60-day layoff and just the start of the long road the Louisville. That said, he only earned an 87 Beyer, so he’ll have to get a lot faster. I would classify it as a decent start, but he’s got a lot of work to do.
On the Others: Runner-up Firenze Fire, as we noted before the race, was a major question-mark going this nine-furlong distance. He actually acquitted himself better than I thought he would, but he had a good trip, saving ground and angling out. He has the length of the stretch to get by the winner and the final three furlongs were run in nearly 40 seconds, but he couldn’t gain. He didn’t really do anything to ease any concerns that he would be a viable contender going 10 furlongs and the next time he goes nine furlongs, he’ll be in a much tougher field.
Marconi broke slowly, as he usually does, and made his long grinding run, but he was flat late and probably should have finished ahead of Firenze Fire. He wants as much ground and theoretically as long a stretch as he can get.
Coltandmississippi set a strong pace after being hustled to the lead but was all done on the turn. Bal Harbour tracked the pace and stopped.
What’s Next: The next race in New York is the Gotham on March 10th, a one-turn mile. Avery Island, who has run back to back races going a mile-and-an-eighth, is likely Florida-bound for either the March 3rd Fountain of Youth or the March 10th Tampa Bay Derby.
We’ll see what happens with Firenze Fire but he could go into the Gotham on March 10th with five weeks rest, and that one-turn mile is perfect for him. Considering he’s run three straight races going nine furlongs, it seems unlikely Marconi shows up in the Gotham. Perhaps the nine-furlong Louisiana Derby on March 24th at the long-stretch Fair Grounds would be a fit, but that is my speculation.
What’s Next (New York): There are two more Derby preps in New York, the March 10th Gotham and the April 7th Wood Memorial.