02/07/2015 5:42PM

Far From Over takes Withers despite poor start

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Debbie Roma
Far From Over goes from last to first under Manuel Franco in the Withers.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -  After a disastrous start, Far From Over more than lived up to his name, rallying from last to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and give trainer Todd Pletcher another 3-year-old on the Kentucky Derby trail.

After stumbling badly leaving the gate under Manuel Franco, Far From Over - making just his second career start - trailed throughout and was 10 lengths back after three-quarters of a mile of the 1 1/16-mile race.

“I wanted a refund after the start,” Pletcher, who watched the race at Gulfstream Park, said with a laugh.

 Leaving the three-eighths pole, Franco showed Far From Over the whip and the colt began to gather momentum. Meanwhile, El Kabeir, the 1-2 favorite, and Classy Class, the 7-2 second choice, were noses apart through a half-mile in 47.95 seconds and six furlongs in 1:12.01.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Far From Over saved all the ground until the three-sixteenths pole before tipping three wide and running past the dueling duo of El Kabeir and Classy Class to win the Withers by 1 3/4 lengths. El Kabeir, coming off a pair of graded stakes victories, was able to get second by one length over Classy Class. He was followed, in order, by Tencendur, March, and General Bellamy. Unrivaled scratched.

The win earned Far From Over 10 qualifying points on the road to the Derby. Thought it was just his second start, he may have gained several races worth of experience after losing his footing and stumbling at the break.

“He just took a bad step out of there,” Franco said.

Franco said the game plan changed after that as he had been instructed to keep Far From Over just behind the speed. Franco said he just let Far From Over get comfortable and pick it up gradually.

“At the three-eighths pole I showed him the whip and he started running and I said ‘I have horse,’ “ Franco said. “He responded pretty good.”

Far From Over gave Franco his 11th career stakes victory, but his first graded win. He covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.93 and returned $14.40 to win.

Far From Over, a son of Blame purchased as a yearling at auction for $550,000 by Black Rock Thoroughbreds, had won his debut racing on the lead. He was forced to show a new dimension after the disastrous start.

“Sometimes those things can work out in your favor,” Pletcher said. “That was the case today. Still, for a second time starter it was pretty impressive.”

Pletcher isn’t sure if he will bring Far From Over back to south Florida to train or just leave him in New York and run in the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham here on March 7.

El Kabeir had shown a new dimension winning last month’s Grade 3 Jerome after stumbling two strides out of the gate. Jockey C.C. Lopez was planning to stalk the pace again on Saturday but after a slow opening quarter of 24.40 seconds, Lopez allowed El Kabeir to engage the pacesetting Classy Class early down the backside and those two were inseparable until deep stretch.

“He just got up there because they were setting a slow pace,” Lopez said. “I was content where I was. I can’t offer any excuse for him. He ran hard.”

 “When I saw the first quarter it was nice to have him more forwardly placed going up the backstretch and he looked comfortable,” said John Terranova, the trainer of El Kabeir. “He was applying the pressure and Chuckie said he switched off beautifully for him when he called on him he gave it to him and came back fine. … There’s no telling how good the winner is. He’s certainly bred and has he looks of being a good horse.”

-  additional reporting by Mike Welsch