The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to the Empire State Saturday where Samraat has been tagged as the prohibitive 7-5 morning-line favorite in the 134th running of the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Undefeated in three starts, Samraat has won his previous races by a combined 25 lengths including a 16-length romp in the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct on December 18.
During the winter break, Samraat was sent to Florida where he’s been working out good at the Palm Meadows Training Center.
"He had a few races close together and ran such a big race in the Damon Runyon…It seemed like the Jerome (G2) would be back too quick," said trainer Rick Violette in an Aqueduct news story. "We sent him to Florida, and it seems like that's been the right move with the way the weather has been [in New York]. He's been doing great, as usual."
And, Samraat looks like the horse to beat in the Withers. He definitely has the breeding to be competitive at this distance.
Samraat is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and he’s bred on a nick with the Nasrullah Ancestral. His nick is very similar to that of Creative Cause who was a multiple graded-stakes winner that finished fifth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Noble Causeway, the sire of Samraat, was a multiple graded stakes-placed racehorse who finished second in the 9-furlong Florida Derby (G1).
Giant’s Causeway, the grandsire of Samraat, was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old (all at 7-furlongs) – winning the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes. As a 3-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was 6-4-0 in 10 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs, and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.
Indian Charlie, the damsire of Samraat, was a competive stakes winner who was undefeated in four starts, including a 2¼-length win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), en route to a third-place finish in the 1998 Kentucky Derby (G1).
In Excess, the second damsire of Samraat, was a good router and multiple graded-stakes winner who compiled an 11-2-3 record in 25 starts with $1,736,733 in career earnings. In 1991, In Excess set a new track record of 1:58.33 in the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap (G1), earning a 120 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance.
I look for Samraat to be competitive.
Uncle Sigh (9-5) is stepping up in class and he, also, has the breeding to be competitive. He broke his maiden in his last race and comes into the Withers off of a 14-length romp at Aqueduct on December 27.
A recent bullet work out could have Uncle Sigh ready to run a good race.
Classic Giacnroll (5-1) comes into the Withers with a second-place finish in the Jerome Stakes (G2) and looks like he could factor in the exotics.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Withers Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive four points, the third-place finisher will receive two points and the four-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top 20 Derby qualifiers:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
2. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
3. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
4. Tapiture, 12, Steve Asmussen, $120,738
5. Bond Holder, 11, Doug O’Neill, $333,000
6. Rise Up, 10, Tom Amoss, $782,633
7. We Miss Artie, 10, Todd Pletcher, $242,000
8. Noble Moon, 10, Leah Gyarmati, $145,000
9. Ami’s Holiday, 10, Josie Carrroll, $136,145
10. Vicar’s in Trouble, 10, Mike Maker, $120,000
11. Cleburne, 10, Dale Romans, $102,044
12. Tanzanite Cat, 10, Code Autrey, $90,000
13. Midnight Hawk, 10, Bob Baffert, $60,000
14. Casigaupo, 5, Mario Morales, $271,050
15. Conquest Titan, 4, Mark Casse, $163,445
16. Dance With Fate, 4, Peter Eurton, $110,000
17. Smarty’s Echo, 4, Anne Smith, $82,000
18. Albano, 4, Larry Jones, $70,000
19. Classic Giacnroll, 4, Lisa Guerrero, $50,000
20. Walt, 4, Chris Hartman, $45,000