01/28/2013 3:09PM

Aqueduct: Siete de Oros comes into Withers as much shorter price than in Jerome

Tom Keyser
Siete de Oros (right) will try to prove that his near-upset at the Jerome wasn't a fluke when he returns in Saturday's Withers.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Siete de Oros, who came within a head of pulling off a 41-1 upset in the Jerome Stakes here on Jan. 5, will return to Aqueduct for Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes, where he hopes to validate that performance and jump on the Triple Crown trail.

Siete de Oros, owned and trained by Ramon Preciado, is one of seven horses expected to be entered Wednesday for Saturday’s Withers, a 1 1/16-mile race that offers 17 qualifying points (10-4-2-1) for the Kentucky Derby.

In a field whose only stakes winner is expected to be the New York-bred Smooth Bert, Siete de Oros could vault from longest shot in the field to second choice behind highly regarded maiden winner Revolutionary.

When Siete de Oros finished second to the undefeated Vyjack in the Jerome, he was wearing blinkers for the first time. Preciado said blinkers had been recommended to him by jockey Jose Ferrer after the gelding finished fifth in his debut at Parx last Sept. 22.

But instead of adding blinkers, Preciado dropped the horse in for a claiming tag of $40,000 and Siete de Oros won by 2 1/4 lengths. The gelding won a first-level allowance race on Nov. 3 before finishing third in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes on Dec. 8. It was after that race that Preciado put the blinkers on, and he said they definitely helped him in the Jerome.

“I wanted to give him a couple of races before I put the blinkers on him,” Preciado said Monday by phone from Parx. “I didn’t think anybody would touch him for $40,000 so I thought let me take a shot.”

Preciado spent only $2,000 on Siete de Oros as a yearling. He purchased him at the Eastern fall yearling sales at Timonium in October 2011.

Preciado said he gelded Siete de Oros before he ever raced because he was getting very difficult.

“If I didn’t geld him he probably doesn’t make it to the races,” Preciado said.

For the Jerome, Preciado had to make a late rider switch from Angel Arroyo to Maria Remedio because Arroyo was having visa issues in his native Panama.

Arroyo, the leading rider at Parx in 2012, is still stuck in Panama, and Preciado said that Remedio would retain the mount for the Withers. Remedio, who won 10 races at Parx in 2012, is already off to a 7-for-33 start through January.

“I’m going to put her back on and see what happens,” Preciado said. “She rode him well and with a lot of confidence.”

Preciado said Remedio was aboard Siete de Oros on Saturday when he breezed five furlongs in 1:03.45 at Parx.

Smooth Bert works five furlongs

On a snowy Monday morning in New York, Smooth Bert, winner of the Damon Runyon last out, worked five furlongs in 1:02.45 over the Belmont training track. He went a quick middle quarter of 24.40 seconds before finishing his final quarter in 25.82.

Leah Gyarmati, the trainer of Smooth Bert, said she is leaning toward running, though she was hoping for a stronger workout.

“I was hoping for either a lights-out work that was going to push me that way or not,” Gyarmati said. “It was good, it was fine. It’s kind of a dead track.”

Others who put in final workouts for the Withers over the weekend were Long River (four furlongs in 48.25 seconds at Belmont), Valid (four furlongs in 48.55 at Belmont), and Amerigo Vespucci (five furlongs in 1:02 at Laurel).

Revolutionary, who put in a strong workout on Jan. 20, will not work again leading up to the race owing to concerns from his connections over how weather affected the Belmont training track.

Called to Serve to Big Cap

Called to Serve is going Hollywood.

Winner of the Grade 3 Discovery at Aqueduct in November and the listed Broad Brush Stakes at Laurel in December, Called to Serve will jump into Grade 1 stakes company in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

His connections, owner Marc Ferrell and trainer Nick Canani, had considered running Called to Serve in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park, but in the end opted to give the colt more time.

“We want to have a fresh horse all year long,” Canani said. “We just felt going to the Donn, it only gave us [40 days] from the Broad Brush and he ran such a fast number on the sheets that day. We felt it was better to give him a little bit of breather and training straight up to the Handicap. I think a mile and quarter is right up his alley.”

Canani said that Called to Serve would have one breeze here later this week and then ship to Southern California on Feb. 5, when he will take up residence in the barn of Canani’s father, Julio.

“It’s very convenient having my dad there. I think he won it in 1989 [with Martial Law],” the younger Canani said. “Maybe he can give me a few tips.”

Canani also said that Los Ojitos, who won a second-level allowance race here on Jan. 17, would be pointed to the Grade 2, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 16.

“Seven-eighths seems to be a perfect distance for her. I think the addition of blinkers really helped her last time,” Canani said. “She’s proven over the Laurel surface. She shipped there twice and she ran her best number down there.”

◗ Nicole H, last year’s Correction winner and also a candidate for the Barbara Fritchie, zipped four furlongs in 46.93 seconds Monday morning over Belmont’s training track.