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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Withers Stakes: Might Take Some Swagger


By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile

Posted Feb. 2, 2012

The Grade III Withers Stakes adds spice to the dead-of-winter Triple Crown Trail in New York. With the replacement of the ungraded Whirlaway with this race, competition for graded money doesn't have to wait until the Gotham this year.

Speightscity, an oft-campaigned warrior, has competed in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Grade II Remsen and the Count Fleet. He returns from a bad experience in the latter race -- bumped at the start, he was rank heading to the first turn. David Cohen took him out to the three path, and he pretty much ran in place from there, losing by 10 lengths. Maybe he'll perform better in the Withers.

That said, the last time Speightscity won, he ran a mile and 70 yards on the inner track at Aqueduct 19 days after the Remsen in 1:44.65; meanwhile, Alpha win of the Count Fleet over the same course was timed in 1:42.83. Cohen returns for trainer Gary Contessa.

Five days before Speightscity's win at the Big A, Hakama broke his maiden at the track in his third start while running the mile and 70 yards in 1:42.49 -- faster than Alpha's time in the Count Fleet. Hakama had the advantage of being the lone speed in that six-horse field while being ridden by Ramon Dominguez at 6-5 odds. Things won't be as easy this time around, and Hakama won't have Dominguez. Julian Pimentel comes back after a victorious, front-running win on Hakama at Laurel -- and Dominguez stays on Alpha.

Swag Daddy, a New York-bred, has a pair of stakes wins at Aqueduct going two turns from a total of three victories in six starts. He hails from what could in all candor be dubbed the ultimate love-hate barn in New York state, that of Rick Dutrow, Jr. Swag Daddy is likely to be bet down from his morning line by fans holding their noses while shoveling money through the windows. A son of Scat Daddy bought by experienced Triple Crown Trail owner Eric Fein for $170,000, Swag Daddy has upside potential in his first start of 2012. He's already shown both willingness and ability to put distance between himself and the pack.

King Kid wasn't thought of so well at the sales -- he was a $35,000 RNA at Keeneland in September 2010. But he's from the respected barn of Dale Romans, and he finished third in the first running of the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1. While a half-length separated top finishers Reveron and Casual Trick, King Kid was another 5 1/2 lengths in arrears. Casual Kid returned in a Gulfstream Park allowance last Saturday and faltered as the favorite. King Kid has put in a couple of nice works at Gulfstream in prep for the Withers. Connections are giving him a shot.

How Do I Win is a horse that's been an admitted $190,000 disappointment for owner Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher. Were it otherwise, he'd be running in Florida -- but arguably you could say that about most of these. Pletcher has said he'll probably tell Cornelio Velasquez to go to the front, hoping that How Do I Win will answer that question on a loose lead. Being by Corinthian, maybe How Do I Win would like a really wet track. The forecast calls for a mostly sunny sky.

Two races back, Tiger Walk won going a mile on good turf at Laurel, timed in 1:42.14. He had been unable to hit the board in two prior turf tries at Saratoga. He was put on dirt for the first time in his most recent outing, and he won again -- this time he got the distance in 1:37.78.

Alpha is slight of build and shipped in from Florida just before the Count Fleet, and that is how the barn explained why he's had one work since that race. It gives pause as to how much that win took out of him, so maybe he's a vulnerable favorite. He's had trouble at the gate before, so nimble bettors who like him might want to wait until the last minute to make a play or pass.



Swag Daddy is a 10-1 morning line, and I am looking to see whether his actual odds are lower. I think he'll be ready off the layoff for Dutrow, the question being whether he's good enough.

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