Flexibility stands out in Withers
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Coming off a dominant victory as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade 3 Jerome Stakes here four weeks ago, Flexibility looms as another odds-on choice when he attempts his next steps down the Triple Crown trail in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
Flexibility, a New York-bred son of 2006 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat, rolled to a 4 1/4-length victory in the Jerome, run at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track. At 1 1/16 miles, the Withers is 40 yards farther. The competition is somewhat tougher with the presence of stakes winners Sunny Ridge and King Kranz in the field as well as Jerome runner-up Vorticity. Adventist, an 11 1/4-length debut winner sprinting, and Donegal Moon, who stumbled and unseated his rider at the start of the Jerome, complete the field. Cards of Stone, a New York-bred maiden winner, was sold Thursday and will scratch, according to his new connections.
“I think it’s fair to say this race is tougher than the Jerome,” said Chad Brown, who trains Flexibility for owners Seth Klarman and William Lawrence. “Sunny Ridge looks formidable in there, he’s got good form, and we’re picking up some weight off our last win. There’s definitely more challenges in this race for Flexibility, but he’s training like he’s up to it.”
Flexibility, the 122-pound highweight, will break from post 2 under Irad Ortiz Jr.
Sunny Ridge, a New Jerseybred gelding by Holy Bull, is making his 3-year-old debut. He won the Sapling and finished second in both the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot to complete his 2-year-old year. He will break from the outside post under Manuel Franco.
Flexibility, by Bluegrass Cat (Last 3 Beyers: 90-93-86)
◗ He got a dream trip in the Jerome, sitting behind a threeply speed duel before tipping four wide at the five-sixteenths pole, taking the lead by the quarter pole, and moving away from the field despite drifting out under a left-handed whip. Prior to that win, Flexibility twice finished second to Mohaymen in graded stakes on Aqueduct’s main track.
“The biggest thing I’m impressed with about this horse is the way he’s matured mentally the last 60 days,” Brown said. “He was a little quirky at times, shying from stuff, wanting to lean out a little bit. It was more behavioral with that horse. He’s breezing a lot more professional, and his last race, although he was wandering around a little bit after he made the lead, when he has horses in front of him, he’s a lot more focused than he was as a 2-year-old.”
Sunny Ridge, by Holy Bull (Last 3 Beyers: 92-86-76)
◗ He gave odds-on favorite Exaggerator everything he could handle in the Delta Jackpot – run over a sealed, muddy track – before losing by a neck while finishing 4 3/4 lengths clear of the field.
◗ Five horses have run back out of the Delta Jackpot, with three winning their next starts and one running second.
◗ The last time he raced on a fast track, which should be the case Saturday, was when he won the Sapling Stakes at a mile at Monmouth in September.