Samraat edges clear of game rival Uncle Sigh late in the Withers Stakes on Feb. 1 at Aqueduct. (Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA)
The $250,000 Withers Stakes essentially was a head-to-head duel between Uncle Sigh and unbeaten Samraat from start to finish, with Damon Runyon Stakes winner Samraat edging away from his determined opponent in the final furlong on Saturday at Aqueduct.
Samraat broke very alertly and took a brief lead before Uncle Sigh, who entered the Withers off a 14 ½-length runaway in in December at Aqueduct, took control from the inside post. Throughout the first three-quarters of a mile in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, Samraat raced just off Uncle Sigh’s outside flank.
As the dueling duo moved around the final turn and approached the Withers stretch, Jose Ortiz asked Samraat to accelerate and the Noble Causeway colt responded and moved alongside Uncle Sigh to challenge.
Samraat pushed his nose in front in early stretch but Uncle Sigh battled back gamely and would not back down. Finally, in the final eighth of a mile, Samraat began to edge away and put away Uncle Sigh by a length for his fourth win in as many starts for trainer Rick Violette and owner-breeder My Meadowview Farm.
“It was a long drive. [Uncle Sigh] was kind of tested in his first race. We haven't been,” Violette said. “We left the rest of the field. … Hats off to both horses. They ran a huge, huge race today, and I think they'll show up later in the year."
New York-bred Samraat completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.31. He is out of the winning Indian Charlie mare Little Indian Girl, a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Grade 1 winner Nonsuch Bay.
Uncle Sigh was 10 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Scotland.
The win earned Samraat 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system determines which 3-year-olds earn a starting spot for the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Samraat is tied with eight other 3-year-olds with 10 points. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana, Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince and Remsen Stakes winner Honor Code are tied atop the leaderboard with 14 points.
“This was a tough race,” Violette said when asked when Samraat would make his next start. “We might wait for the Wood Memorial [Grade 1, $1 million, April 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 [Grade 3, $500,000, March 1] or we can wait for the Wood or the Louisiana Derby [Grade 2, $1 million, March 29]. There are a lot of options.”
For an Equibase chart, click here.
SAMRAAT BEGINS TO PULL AWAY FROM UNCLE SIGH
Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA