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Joe Bravo heads to the winner's circle aboard Avery Island after the 2018 Withers Stakes
The highlight race at Aqueduct on Saturday was the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3), a 1 1/8 mile main track contest for 3-year-olds and a points-scoring event in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. After California Night scratched, a short field of 5 went to post under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 20's. Nashua (G2) winner winner Avery Island was sent off as the 6-5 favorite off his 2nd place finsh in the Remsen (G2). In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Marconi, a maiden winner last out at second asking, and 3-1 third choice Firenze Fire, winner of the Champagne (G1) and Jerome but 7th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Avery Island leads down the stretch in the Withers Stakes
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Avery Island Bravo 4.30 2.80 2.10 1 Firenze Fire McCarthy 3.40 2.20 2 Marconi Franco 2.30 Winning Time: 1:51.01 $1 Exacta 4-1 5.60 $1 Trifecta 4-1-2 12.00 $1 Superfecta 4-1-2-5 37.60
Left: Avery Island in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "It looked like he was push button, so it was great that he switched off that quick and then switch back on. Joe Bravo rode him very well, letting the other speed go and sitting second. He did everything right and finished strong. We're not sure what we're going to do for the next race. I'll talk to Jimmy Bell with Godolphin and figure it out, but we're not looking at the Gotham because it goes back to a mile."
Right: Avery Island heads back to the barn.
Left: Avery Island walks over before the race. Winning jockey Joe Bravo said, "The best horse won today. Avery has all the tools to be a good horse. He's just learning to enjoy himself out there. He just relaxed. He just got better and stronger going down the lane. I opened up early around the turn. The quicker he goes, the better he is, but I didn't want to turn it into a sprint, so if they are going to beat us, they're going to have to outrun us from the top. Today, he did it nicely."
Right: Avery Island heads out for the post parade.
Left: Second place finisher Firenze Fire returns after the race. Jockey Trevor McCarthy said, "I thought he handled the 1 1/8 miles. He got a good trip, saved ground, got inside and some had cover. He got a little keen with me early. I would have rather had him sit back a little more and then made a move, but he was a bit on the muscle today. At the top of the stretch, he was in contact. The way the track was playing today was a bit speed-favoring, so I was happy where he was at the top of the stretch. He kicked well for me, but the other one kicked harder." Owner Ron Lombardi added, "He ran well. You always want to win but coming back three weeks (after winning the Jerome), you can't complain. He tried."
Right: Third place finisher Marconi walks over before the race. The 5-2 second choice trailed by as many as 9 lengths early under jockey Manuel Franco, then rallied to get second beaten 2 1/2 lengths. The Todd Pletcher trainee improved his record to 1 win, 1 second, and 1 third in 3 starts, earning $73,000 for owners Bridlewood Farm, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor.