July 14, 2024

Speed Runner to make stakes debut in nine-horse Withers

Speed Runner wins at Aqueduct
Speed Runner wins at Aqueduct (Photo by Coglianese Photography)

Two-time Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Todd Pletcher will look to pad his strong hand when he sends Speed Runner postward in the $250,000 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct. A game maiden winner when stretching to Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile distance eight weeks ago, the chestnut colt will retain the services of Jose Lezcano and face eight rivals in his first stakes attempt.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier offers points on a 20-10-6-4-2 scale to the top five finishers. Pletcher will also have champion two-year-old male Fierceness competing in Saturday’s Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and juvenile Grade 1 winner Locked is scheduled to return in next weekend’s Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Recent maiden victors Born Noble and Speak Easy also look set to join the Kentucky Derby trail for the Hall of Fame trainer.

Speed Runner, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Brilliant Speed, broke his maiden at second asking, earning a respectable 85 Brisnet Speed rating, and the Whisper Hill Farm homebred will break from the innermost post.

El Grande O and Khanate, the runner-up and third-placer from the one-mile Jerome S. on Jan. 6, are both back for the Withers. A two-time stakes winner over New York breds, the Linda Rice-trained El Grande O promises to show with Kendrick Carmouche. Eric Cancel picks up the mount on Khanate, a 10-length maiden scorer at Keeneland three back, for Pletcher.

Uncle Heavy invades from Parx for Butch Reid following a convincing win in the restricted Wait for It S. on Dec. 27, and Mychel Sanchez will be along to ride the son of Social Inclusion. Seminole Chief, winner of the In Reality division of the Florida Sire Series when stretching to two turns last out, ships in from South Florida for Jack Sisterson, and Trevor McCarthy will guide the Florida-bred gray son of Girvin.

Lightline is set to make his stakes debut for Brad Cox following a runner-up allowance finish to Carbonate, who is entered in Saturday’s Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park, and Manny Franco takes over. The same trainer/jockey combination captured last year’s Withers with Hit Show.