Max Player Rolls By Late For Withers Upset

Making his first start in stakes company, George Hall’s Max Player got rolling late in the stretch to win Saturday’s Grade 3 Withers Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths. The 3-year-old son of Honor Code was sent off at 5-1 odds off a 4 1/4-length maiden win at Parx, but he easily ran down 9-5 favorite Shotski to earn his first 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Dylan Davis for trainer Linda Rice, Max Player ran nine furlongs over Aqueduct’s fast main track in 1:53.87.

“He was fit and able to handle the mile and an eighth better than any other horse,” said Davis. “It was nice and I was confident I could run them down. I think he can go farther. He still has some things to figure out with the kickback and trying to get into a good rhythm and getting that good kick when you need it, but I see more improvement for him ahead.”

Max Player wasn’t particularly quick away from the gate and found himself behind a four-wide wall of horses heading into the clubhouse turn. The colt didn’t seem to care for the kickback, and was climbing a bit until Davis angled him out to the center of the track down the backstretch. Settling into stride while sixth, Max Player stayed wide throughout his trip around the oval.

“It was a good thing I watched his replays coming into today,” said Davis. “He doesn’t like too much kickback. He broke well for me today and right when the first kickback came to him into the first turn, he immediately got distracted. I got him back outside and he got on pace and started running well. Going into the second turn, he was traveling well and I had to get into him early because he started getting a little green. Once he got to the stretch he was all business.”

Up front, favorite Shotski took over the lead to mark the first quarter mile in :23.96. Though he slowed the pace down in the second quarter, stopping the half-mile timer in :49.16, Shotski would come up just a bit short in the stretch run. Shotski turned for home with a half-length advantage over Monday Morning QB and the four-wide Max Player. When Max Player hit his best stride near the eighth pole, Shotski was unable to match his rival and had to settle for second by 3 1/4 lengths.

Shotski, the field’s lone previous graded stakes-winner, edged a late-charging Protos by a half-length for second. Trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer, the son of Blame entered the day 10th on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard and increased his total to 14, building on his Remsen victory that netted 10 points.

“He’s a fighter for sure,” O’Dwyer said. “Monday Morning Qb came to him but he fought back and wasn’t going to let him go by. Linda’s horse is obviously a nice horse and was a good bit away from him and didn’t get a chance to see him coming to him. He doesn’t know when to quit or lie down. I’m very proud of him.”

Portos, stepping up to stakes company for the first time in his fifth start, rallied from last to garner two points, earning blacktype for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“My horse was coming late but it was hard to make up ground today,” said Portos jockey Jose Lezcano.

Completing the order of finish was Monday Morning Qb, who earned one point, New Commission and Prince of Pharoahs. Mr. Shortandsimple and Vanzzy were eased at the finish.

Bred in Kentucky by K & G Stables, Max Player is out of the stakes-winning Not For Love mare Fools In Love. A half-brother to the Gorup 1-placed Seahenge, he was a $150,000 RNA at the Keeneland September yearling sale. On Debut, Max Player ran second at Parx in November. His maiden-breaking victory came in his second start, and the Withers win improves Max Player’s overall record to two wins from three starts for earnings of over $180,000.

“He’s becoming more professional all the time in his morning workouts. Anyone that watched his two races at Parx could see he ran pretty green,” said Rice. “He got pinched out a little bit into the first turn and Dylan [Davis] did a nice job of getting him back into the race and into the clear. He had a bit of a wide trip, but it was a great ride by Dylan. He’s shown us in the morning that he’s had a lot of run at the end of his workouts.

“It’s exciting. I would think the Wood Memorial would be the right spot. I don’t want to shorten him up to one-turn in the Gotham [March 7 at the Big A]. We’ll point towards the Wood and whether we do something in between, George [owner George Hall] and I will figure that out.”

The post Max Player Rolls By Late For Withers Upset appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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