Sophomore Spotlight: Withers, Robert B. Lewis & Holy Bull

February 7th, 2018

A trio of graded races for Kentucky Derby hopefuls was contested last weekend and I will shed some light on what I took from each.

Withers (G2)

Aqueduct feature attracted just five and the race was a formful one. Grade 2 star AVERY ISLAND, the race-time favorite, did his job in securing a two-length tally under Joe Bravo. Kiaran McLaughlin trainee tracked the pace, opened up a lead in early stretch and kept a pair of stubborn foes at bay late in the 1 1/8-mile event.

Avery Island is now a dual graded winner with a fine foundation under him, making four of his five starts at a mile or longer. Godolphin homebred has improved his BRIS Speed figure with each lifetime appearance, though he has to get swifter to be mentioned among the top in his generation.

FIRENZE FIRE ran his race and should be applauded for his consistency. Jason Servis-trained Grade 1 victor was game in holding the place spot at the finish and progresses to the next step. Florida-bred still has to prove to me that he wants to run a classic distance, though.

Third-place finisher MARCONI made a big middle move to get into contention in early stretch but ran out of starch inside the final furlong for Pletcher. Half-brother to Mucho Macho Man was not embarrassed in his first run with stakes foes and the fact Marconi has run 1 1/8 miles in each of his trio of races makes him an interesting one going forward.

Robert Lewis (G3)

Michael Pender’s LOMBO took the lead soon after the start and never gave way in a solid two-length triumph beneath Flavien Prat. Son of Graydar aced his first two-turn test and showed his athleticism when spurting clear at the top of the lane. Lombo scored just an 88 BRIS Speed number and looks lengths behind the top runners out west at this stage of his development.

AYCARA put in a solid rally from well off the pace to be runner-up in the Lewis. Son of Violence is a capable sophomore who has proven to have some class on dirt and synthetics, but I will need to see a whole lot more to get in his corner for future prep races.

Overall I didn’t see the Lewis as a deep race with the overall quality of the field lacking.

Holy Bull (G2)

As I mentioned in a previous post, AUDIBLE left a huge impression on me with his tour-de-force under Castellano. Pletcher trainee has a wicked turn of foot and his stride is effortless. Formidable sophomore is the one to beat in Florida until I see something as special as this performance.

Grade 1 hero FREE DROP BILLY was tons second best while simply running into a buzzsaw in his 2018 debut. Son of Union Rags had every right to need this race and it would be foolish to give up on this talented Dale Romans pupil.

ENTICED and TIZ MISCHIEF, the first and second-choices in the field, were left behind by the top pair through the stretch and could only muster a fourth and third, respectively. The top-two finishers from the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) each deserve another chance to improve, but they have to get faster in a short time span -- the upper echelon of sophomores in 2018 is no joke!