A field of seven has been entered in the Withers Stakes (G3) at the “Meat Locker,” formerly known as Aqueduct. Racing was canceled there on Thursday and let’s hope for everyone involved that it thaws out. The Withers is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and will award 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers. Tax (#1) was claimed for $50,000 out of a winning race at Keeneland by trainer Danny Gargan. It was the dark bay gelding’s first time going two turns in his second career start, so Gargan brought him back in the Remsen Stakes (G2) going the Withers distance of 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct and he held well for third after disputing the early pace. The race came up fast and he earned a BRIS Speed rating of 103 and now he is back eight weeks later. Gargan wins an amazing 36 percent second start off the claim and Tax draws the rail for the short run into the first turn with Junior Alvarado. Sir Winston (#2) took three starts to break his maiden, which he did on the Tapeta at Woodbine going two turns last September. He came back there with an even third in the Grey Stakes (G3) before adding blinkers last out to win the Display Stakes. Being by Awesome Again out of a stakes-winning dam by Afleet Alex, he certainly has every right to be a good horse going two turns on the dirt. Moretti (#3) was a good second in his career debut in an off-the-turf event going a one-turn mile here. He came back at this distance as the odds-on favorite and won easily in slowish time so Todd Pletcher adds blinkers in this spot to the Mike Repole and Eclipse Thoroughbreds’ $900,000 yearling purchase. Manny Franco gets off Tax to pick up the mount here. Admire (#4) broke awkwardly in his well-bet career debut going six furlongs and never got involved. He came right back to win an off-the-turf maiden race at Churchill Downs on a sloppy, sealed track as the 2-1 favorite and should have little trouble getting the trip. Eric Cancel will have to break him running to get position early. Lucky Lee (#5) broke his maiden second time out in his two-turn debut at Parx Racing by over five lengths when he sat just off the pace. Last out there on a wet track against allowance foes, he went to the front and never looked back to win by six lengths as the 4-5 favorite. His BRIS speed rating of 100 was solid and Frankie Pennington picks up the mount – 30 percent riding for John Servis lately. Our Braintrust (#6) has run well on three different main tracks in four career starts. He broke his maiden at Laurel then came to Belmont Park to win the Tremont in June. Off for six months, the son of Freud returned to run a good second in a Maryland-bred stakes race going seven furlongs in fast time then shipped here four weeks ago and was a good second, again, in the one-turn Jerome Stakes. Not That Brady (#7) broke his maiden at Aqueduct third start off the claim by Rudy Rodriguez by 11 lengths against New York-bred maidens, then came back and won a stakes race against them here going a one-turn mile on a wet track. The son of Big Brown is in the capable hands of Reylu Gutierrez, who does not get to claim his apprentice allowance but it didn’t matter last out. WAGERING STRATEGY The short field is loaded with gate speed. I anticipate the main track has been sealed solid during the bad weather and I look for it to be speed-favoring. I think Not That Brady is the fastest of the fast and will have to be used from his wide draw. Tax should work out a good trip as long as nobody is allowed to run away and hide. He has trained steadily for this and we might get a decent price since he was formerly a maiden claimer, loses Manny Franco and could bounce off his last big effort. We will key him on top. Win: #1 Exacta: #5, #6 and #7 with #1 PHOTO: Not That Brady wins the Damon Runyon Stakes under jockey Reylu Gutierrez at Aqueduct on December 31, 2018 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography/Chelsea Durand