We’ve reached the halfway point along Aqueduct’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. The third of five Kentucky Derby qualifiers held annually at the New York racetrack is the $250,000, Grade 3 Withers Stakes, slated to take place this Saturday over a distance of 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
Seven horses have entered the Withers, which awards Derby qualification points to the top five finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 basis. And at first glance, betting the Withers should be as simple as playing #1 Arctic Arrogance on top of all our tickets and calling it a day.
After all, Arctic Arrogance brings an impressive résumé to the table. He hasn’t finished out of the top two in five career starts, including four straight races at Aqueduct. In the first stage of Aqueduct’s Kentucky Derby trail, Arctic Arrogance carved out the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Remsen Stakes before settling for second place, beaten only half a length while pulling 11 ¼ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.
Arctic Arrogance ran similarly well in the one-mile Jerome Stakes, the second of Aqueduct’s Derby preps. This time the gray colt pressed the pace before battling gamely to finish second again, half a length behind the winner but seven lengths clear of the third-place horse.
If you’re a fan of Brisnet Speed ratings, you should know Arctic Arrogance is the fastest horse in the Withers field by virtue of the 99 he posted in the Remsen. He followed up with a solid 94 in the Jerome. He’ll wear blinkers for the first time in the Withers, and if the addition of headgear sharpens his finishing focus, Arctic Arrogance will be tough to beat.
But is Arctic Arrogance a lock to win the Withers? Not necessarily. Despite his lofty credentials, Arctic Arrogance may face a stiff challenge from #4 Hit Show, whose trainer Brad Cox has compiled a stellar record of six wins and three seconds from 12 starters at Aqueduct since Nov. 1.
Hit Show has shown flashes of significant talent across his first three starts. In his debut dashing seven-eighths of a mile at Keeneland, Hit Show rallied through the pack to burst clear and dominate by 5 ¼ lengths. He then faltered to finish fourth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs, but bounced back readily when competing in the same approximate class level at Oaklawn Park, rallying from a few lengths behind to trounce a one-mile contest by 3 ½ lengths.
From a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, Hit Show isn’t as fast as Arctic Arrogance; his career-best number is an 89. But Hit Show has been training sharply at Oaklawn and has the pedigree to improve with distance and maturity, so there’s a good chance he’ll produce his best effort yet while stretching out over 1 1/8 miles this Saturday. Hit Show has upside and may be capable of surprising against Arctic Arrogance.
Behind the top two contenders, Pennsylvania raider #6 Ninetyprcentmaddie has a chance to finish in the trifecta. Victorious in his first three starts at Parx Racing, including the Whistle Pig Stakes against Pennsylvania-bred rivals, Ninetyprcentmaddie enters off a couple defeats but ran well in the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile Stakes last month. Facing non-state-restricted competition, Ninetyprcentmaddie dueled for the lead over a sloppy track, then battled on to finish second behind the undefeated two-time stakes winner Recruiter.
Ninetyprcentmaddie has never run farther than seven furlongs, but he has enough speed to be prominent from the outset in the Withers, and trainer Robert Reid Jr. has compiled an excellent record of two wins, two seconds, and two thirds from six Aqueduct starters since Nov. 1. Reid sent out Pennsylvania shipper Maximus Mischief to win the 2018 Remsen on Aqueduct’s Road to the Kentucky Derby, so Ninetyprcentmaddie can’t be counted out of contention on Saturday.
We also have to highlight #3 Jungfrau, a stoutly bred son of Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate out of a mare by three-time leading North American sire Tapit. Jungfrau was last seen winning a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight via disqualification at Gulfstream Park and has the pedigree to improve with maturity for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
How should we bet the Withers? Let’s try playing Hit Show on top of Arctic Arrogance, Ninetyprcentmaddie, and Jungfrau in the exacta and trifecta. If our combination comes in, we should cash solid payoffs even in this small field.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 exacta: 4 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 9th race, $10 exacta 4 with 1
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget
$15 exacta: 4 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 9th race, $15 exacta 4 with 1
$5 trifecta: 4 with 1 with 3,6 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 9th race, $5 trifecta 4 with 1 with 3,6
Good luck, and enjoy the race!
Six Beginner Betting Tools
- Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
- Not sure what that word means? Horse racing terminology is a language of its own. Allow us translate for you.
- What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
- Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
- We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
- Figure out how much each bet will cost in advance with our Gambling Calculator, presented by NYRA Bets.