2021 Kentucky Derby Preps: Withers Stakes

As the road to the 147th Kentucky Derby rolls along, US Racing looks back at some history of many of the prep races that now offer qualifying points to Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 1.

By Margaret Ransom

The $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on Saturday is one of the oldest stakes for 3-year-olds contested in the country. The race was named for New York businessman, horse owner and breeder, and one time Monmouth Park owner David Dunham Withers, who owned the 1890 winner of the race, King Eric.

First offered on the New York racing stakes calendar in 1874, the Withers has been run at five different tracks – Jerome Park, Morris Park, Jamaica Race Course, Belmont Park and now Aqueduct. It wasn’t contested in 2011 but was brought back on the calendar for 2012 and has remained a staple as an early New York Kentucky Derby (G1) prep since.

Gotham Stakes and April’s Wood Memorial

The race offers Road to the Derby points to make the gate for the Run for the Roses – 10-4-2-1 to the top-four finishers. For the time being, the winner is squarely among the better candidates to make the starting gate in Louisville considering 10 others are tied in seventh on the current list with 10 points each.

The Withers has been a strong indicator for both next month’s Gotham Stakes (G3) and April’s Wood Memorial (G2), but overall it hasn’t had much impact on any of the Triple Crown races recently, though historically it boasts some famous names on the winners’ list.

Aristides won the second running of the race in 1875 before wearing the roses, and other notable runners with their names in the history books as Withers winners are Duke of Magenta, Tyrant, Hanover, Domino, Colin, Sir Barton, Man o’War, Blue Larkspur, Johnstown, Count Fleet, Polynesian, Hill Prince, Native Dancer, Jaipur, Dr. Fager, Bold Reasoning, Key to the Mint, Housebuster, Dixie Brass, and Bernardini.

Max Player

A year ago, Max Player won this race before making the gate for all three of the COVID-19 reshuffled Triple Crown races, picking up a third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and fifth-place finishes in the Derby and the Preakness (G1).

The polar vortex and blizzard that gripped much of the Eastern U.S. this week, including New York, is expected to have passed by Saturday, but it will be cold with temperatures unlikely to top 40 degrees. The Withers has been carded as the afternoon’s eighth race with a post time of 4:25 p.m. ET.

To mitigate risk and reduce the spread of COVID-19, New York state currently requires all racetracks to operate without spectators in attendance and for the essential staff and employees to operate following strict health and safety guidelines. A limited number of owners licensed by the state are currently permitted to attend live racing on the day their horse is entered.

For the third year, the race has been extended a sixteenth of a mile from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles.

The field for the Withers, with riders and trainers and pedigree:

2021 Withers Stakes Field

Trevor McCarthy
Gary Capuano
Shackleford—Jurys Out, by Lawyer Ron
Royal Number
Pablo Morales
Michael Trombetta
Palace Malice—Hartigan, by Include
Capo Kane
Dylan Davis
Harold Wyner
Street Sense—Twirl Me, by Hard Spun
Mr. Doda
Luis Rodriguez Castro
Carlos Soto
Uptowncharlybrown—Sweeter Turn, by Sweet Return
Risk Taking
Eric Cancel
Chad Brown
Medaglia d’Oro–Run a Risk, by Distorted Humor
Manuel Franco
Todd Pletcher
Curlin–Got Lucky, by A.P. Indy
Donegal Bay
Kendrick Carmouche
Todd Pletcher
Uncle Mo—Solo Piano, by Empire Maker
Civil War
Brian Hernandez
Tom Albertrani
Bodemeister—Princess Aspen, by Birdstone
Eagle Orb
Jorge Vargas, Jr.
Rudy Rodriguez
Orb—Lady On Holiday, by Harlan’s Holiday
Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.