Tiz the Law and Thousand Words will be heavy favorites in the Holy Bull (G3) and Robert B. Lewis (G3), respectively, and neither appears to face deep competition in the early-season Kentucky Derby prep races. Instead of trying to beat them, I will recommend a couple of horses in undercard stakes at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, and give my thoughts on the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct.
Three-year-old fillies will contest Race 8, the Sweetest Chant (G3), and Ivyetsu (10-1 morning line) will finally get to race over turf in the one-mile affair. A granddaughter of an English champion, she hails from a classy turf female family, and Ivyetsu impressively broke her maiden by 5 3/4 lengths in an off-the-turf maiden at Churchill Downs two back. Throw out her last start over a sloppy track in the Golden Rod (G2). The Tapit filly is well-drawn in post 8, enabling jockey Julien Leparoux to race up close with the other speed to the inside, and she shows some swift works in preparation for Rusty Arnold.
King Abner (4-1) enters Race 8, the San Pasqual (G2), on the upswing for trainer Phil d’Amato, registering a career-best 103 Brisnet Speed rating for a runner-up in the Dec. 28 San Antonio (G2). He can earn his first stakes win today. Sidelined for 18 months earlier in his career, the 6-year-old gelding rose through the claiming and allowance ranks the last couple of seasons, and he posted a nice confidence-building win at Del Mar two back. King Abner shows a pair of bullet works in preparation, and Flavien Prat picks up the mount.
The $250,000 Withers (G3) features eight runners, and Linda Rice will send out an intriguing duo of Prince of Pharoahs (8-1) and Max Player (9-2). I will give the Prince of Pharoahs the advantage off his dead-heat second in the Jan. 1 Jerome, but will use both runners exclusively in any multi-race wagers. I am against Shotski, who figures to chance tactics at short odds after having everything his own way in the Remsen (G2); and 3-1 morning line second choice Portos, who was able to race up in the last two due to glacial paces but must avoid leaving himself too much to do from far back today.