Samraat remained undefeated and got his name on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard when he won the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY. Along with a $150,000 paycheck, the Noble Causeway colt picked up 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, the points system that determines Kentucky Derby entries. Making his debut on the leaderboard, Samraat currently sits eighth and is tied with nine others at 10 points.
As expected, Samraat and Uncle Sigh were the horses to beat in the 1 and 1/16 mile route over Aqueduct’s inner track. Making their first start among open company, the pair of New York breds were sent off at even money and quickly left the field of four others to follow behind them. In what appeared to be more a match race than an early Kentucky Derby prep, the duo were never more than a half-length apart through much of the race. Trained by Rick Violette, Jr. and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Samraat trailed slightly behind Gary Contessa’s maiden winner, Uncle Sigh, until the pair was deep into the stretch. Uncle Sigh finally gave way and Samraat prevailed, winning by a length. Scotland finished in third, 10 and a quarter lengths behind. It was nearly three lengths back to Classic Giacnroll in fourth.
"It was a long drive," said Violette. "[Uncle Sigh] was kind of tested in his first race. We haven't been. We left the rest of the field. As fast as we went early, it wasn't like all of a sudden somebody from out of the clouds was going to get there. Hats off to both horses. They ran a huge, huge race today, and I think they'll show up later in the year."
Violette has not decided yet which race Samraat will target next.
"We might wait for the Wood Memorial [G 1, Apr. 5]. We're in a good spot now. If he's kind of kicking the walls down he can certainly come back for the Gotham [G 3, Mar. 1] or we can wait for the Wood or the Louisiana Derby [G 2, Mar. 29]. There are a lot of options."
Contessa has already decided Uncle Sigh will try the Gotham next and hopes to find a rematch with Samraat.
"Maybe he got me on experience today; I look forward to Rocky II," said Contessa. "That's how I feel after a race like this; this was Rocky, I'm ready for Rocky II. He ran well. I think the difference was that I, having the No. 1 hole, had to set the pace. My horse isn't very experienced and I think he's really going to mature off this effort. He never stopped running. I look forward to the rematch. Hopefully [Samraat] comes back for the Gotham. I'll be there."
Samraat returned $4.30, $2.50 and $2.10. Uncle Sigh paid $2.60 and $2.20 and completed the $2 exacta for $9.40. Scotland paid $3.10 and completed the $2 trifecta for $31.60. Classic Giacnroll completed the $2 superfecta for $61.00. The final time for the 1 and 1/16 mile race over the fast inner track was 1:46.31.
Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese