02/08/2015 2:52PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Withers Stakes

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Debbie Roma
Far From Over wins the Withers Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct.

Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Aqueduct, Feb. 7, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Far From Over
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Manuel Franco
Owner: Black Rock Thoroughbreds LLLP
Beyer Speed Figure: 96

FAR FROM OVER turned in a highlight-reel performance, overcoming an awful stumble at the start to rally from last in the field of six and get the win.

Far From Over was making only the second start of his career, following a win on Aqueduct’s inner course – the same course over which the Withers was run – going two turns in his debut in December. In the interim, he was sent to be with Todd Pletcher’s main string at the Palm Beach Downs training center in Florida, then headed north for the Withers.

Jockey Manuel Franco never panicked, allowing Far From Over to gather himself and get back into the race under his own power. Far From Over began his rally in earnest on the final turn, was able to stay inside until mid-stretch, then had to come around the dueling leaders before drawing away while swapping over to his wrong lead nearing the finish.

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

My initial reaction watching this race was that Far From Over turned in a remarkable performance, but I also thought his being able to win despite that start was an indictment of his rivals, who looked gassed late, with just five lengths separating the first five finishers. However, the Beyer Speed Figure came back very good, a 96.

What to make of all that? I’m going to be wary of that fig for the time being. For now, I’m going to trust what I saw visually, crediting Far From Over for his achievement but believing everyone else disappointed.

EL KABEIR, who finished second, was seeking his third straight win and was the deservedly heavy favorite off his victory in the Jerome five weeks prior. Breaking from the outside post in this field of six, he was three paths wide on the first turn, then cleared MARCH and went up to engage CLASSY CLASS heading down the backstretch. Those two ran the second- and third-quarter miles of the race in 47.61 seconds, which might have left them weary late. El Kabeir got the better of Classy Class but could not stave off Far From Over.

Third-place finisher Classy Class veered out a bit after the start from his rail draw but made the lead, was challenged by El Kabeir, dueled with him until deep stretch, and lost the battle as well as the war. Being that Classy Class is by Discreetly Mine, I’m of the opinion the distances to be asked of Kentucky Derby contenders in upcoming preps will prove too big a hurdle for him.

TENCENDUR, who finished fourth, was in a good spot on the rail during the early going while tracking the leaders, could not keep pace, drifted a few lanes off the rail entering the lane, and was on his incorrect lead down the stretch.

March, who finished fifth, was a huge disappointment given his sensational trip and ride by Jose Ortiz. March was between both Classy Class and El Kabeir turning into the backstretch, but as the pace heated up, Ortiz shrewdly got out of there and fell into a seemingly perfect spot with March in third place behind two dueling leaders. March loomed a menacing threat entering the lane, but he was late to switch leads, then completely fell apart and managed to beat just one horse.

GENERAL BELLAMY was just outside Tencendur going around the first turn while behind the dueling leaders but gradually tailed off and finished well down the track in last place.

Lisa More than 1 year ago
Second, why are you talking about ANY horse in this race as a Derby contender other than the winner? In his 2nd career start, he breaks 5-lengths behind the field, rallies from dead last off moderate early fractions (24 change opening 1/4) and draws away. He is MUCH THE BEST of that field- and has top notch connections in his corner- no need to talk about anyone but the winner
Lisa More than 1 year ago
To answer James question...You obviously NEVER owned a race horse. They aren't machines, they come with all types of issues, from being sick to injuries and can't always stay in training. If they could have run, they WOULD have, Pletcher doesn't have a game plan saying "I'm going to give them 1 shot to earn points." A horse has to be in PEAK physical condition to win a Grade I race and if they miss training time, they can't face those type of rivals at a route distance. This horse obviously had some issues that caused his race schedule to be delayed
James Peterson More than 1 year ago
My concern is he has one shot to get into Derby he needs at least 2nd in the wood. Why they are putting all there chances in one race is stupid. If he makes the Derby and is healthy he is the fastest horse in the stretch and can get the distance. Another concern is a rookie jockey in Derb, I don't think fronco has ridden in the Derby. I have a sweet future bet at 45-1 on him. I believe all the top horses will hit the Derby wall starting at the top of stretch to the finish line. I now call it the Verranno wall. my top 4 Far from Over, It'saknockout, International Star, Carpe Diem
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Far From Over is another who can get the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. He must be followed and should be considered a threat in the upcoming prep races as well as the Derby.
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
March can be a 1 1/4 mile horse with a little more seasoning. However, with the qualifying system now in place, he finds himself in the position of needing to improve almost immediately just to make the Derby.
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
El Kabeir proved he doesn't want 1 1/16 miles in the withers. He will probably reinforce that performance by failing to win the Gotham. Regardless, he wants no part of 1 1/8 miles and especially no part of 1 1/4 miles. He will not be a threat in the longer prep races or the Derby.
Marc Estrich More than 1 year ago
As a result of the stumble, Far From Over, under a very heady ride, was dropped to the rail to save ground and never had to clip his stride an inch being clear 2 lengths front and back virtually the entire trip. Still a very promising effort for a hoss running in only his second race. He can only go forward from here but the buildings will get taller in the succeeding races as Woody stated so accurately.
Raymond Roberts More than 1 year ago
Ok deny what you just saw.Arch has been knocking on door(Arch Arch Arch)would have won his derby had he not got slammed.Blood is there now with Blame(Zenyatta anyone)A.P Indy Female family.Pedigree shows Althea and Alydar X2.Looks like a racehorse who will thrive at classic distance.Pletcher has a good one.Hurdles and staying healthy loom.Borel and Stevens have this guy on speed dial
tommy More than 1 year ago
Race looks suspicious after I did my calculations after the race !! How can el kabier finish one mile and 70 yards on dirt in the rain @ 1:44.69 and now run a longer distance 1 1/16 and finish @ 1:44.7 Looks like el kabier was pulled in this race! For example let's say I can run a mile @ 5 minutes and next time I run in a half mile race and finish 5 minutes, you can say the race was fixed but I wasn't running hard enough at half mile. My calculations ( vo2 max) say el kabier was suppose to finish 1 1/16 @ 1:42
morcz1020 . More than 1 year ago
it ant going to matter because there is a horse coming out of the oaklawn meet thats getting ready to shock the world in the rebel stakes and will go on to win the ky deby and u heard it hear first his name "kantune" when he wins rebel and ky derby get back to me at guitarplayer1259@gmail.com and for a fee i can give u some more winners. have a great day
papine01 . More than 1 year ago
Give the horse all the credit.At least his breeding says a lot more than his stumble.Blame is looking like the 1st crop stallion to go to going forward and Claiborne is chompimg at the bit knowing Orbs are coming next.Hope this one does Pletcher some good.