Portos Has Derby Dreams in Withers Stakes
Photo Copyright Eclipse Sportswire
By Emily Shields for TVG
Trainer Todd Pletcher had to wait four starts for Wertheimer and Frere’s Portos to put it all together. Portos, who is by Tapit and out of the stakes winning Tiznow mare Fierce Boots, was fourth on debut at Saratoga, but then ran third at Keeneland and second over this trip before breaking his maiden at Aqueduct December 31.
In that fourth start, Portos and jockey Jose Lezcano aired, rolling home 10 ¾ lengths clear of the rest of the field. That effort makes him dangerous in Saturday’s $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3), as he is a winner over this track and the 1 1/8-mile trip.
The public will skew towards Shotski, who is the 2-1 favorite in the field of eight runners hoping for Kentucky Derby points. Shotski has also won over the trip, taking the Remsen Stakes (G2) here December 7. Jeremiah O’Dwyer trains the son of Blame, who will have Luis Saez back aboard for this. He is a two-time winner to date, and was fourth in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs in October. Shotski has been working steadily at Laurel Park for this race.
Trainer Linda Rice has two, including the well-bred Prince of Pharoahs, by Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah. Prince of Pharoahs was a maiden winner over a mile at Belmont Park in Octoer, then ran second here New Year’s Day behind leading Derby contender Independence Hall; that rival is waiting another week to race. Kendrick Carmouche will ride. Rice’s other starter is Max Player, a maiden winner owned by George E Hall. The son of Honor Code scored at Parx over a mile in the slop, and gets Dylan Davis for the first time.
Monday Morning Qb is a son of turf and distance star Imagining, and stretches out for the first time. Robert Reid, Jr. trains the Cash Is King and LC Racing colt. He broke his maiden at Parx sprinting I November, then stretched out to seven furlongs to take the Heft Stakes at Laurel Park December 28. This will be his sophomore debut.
Mr. Shortandsimple and New Commission round out the field. The Withers is one of three Kentucky Derby prep races on tap for Saturday, February 1, with the others being Gulfstream Park’s Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). The prep races continue next weekend with the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, and then February 15 with the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and El Camino Real Derby. All of these races can be wagered on and watched live on TVG.
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