Deep-closing Risk Taking earns Derby points with G3 Withers rally

February 7, 2021

Klaravich Stables’ Risk Taking proved in his maiden score he could win going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack, and that success at two turns proved beneficial on Saturday when he overtook pacesetter Capo Kane in the final furlong and powered home a 3 3/4-length winner of the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers for 3-year-olds at the Big A.

Risk Taking, who finished off the board in splitting his first two starts between the main track and turf, again found a comfort zone going longer, capturing the 145th running of the Withers, a Grade 1 Kentucky Derby prep race awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers.

Jerome-winner Capo Kane broke well from post 3 and lead the nine-horse field though the opening quarter-mile in 24.02 seconds, the half in 48.71 and three-quarters in 1:13.17 on the fast main track.

Risk Taking also broke alertly from post 5 under jockey Eric Cancel, settling in sixth position and content to let others do the heavy lifting. Out of the turn, Capo Kane, under jockey Dylan Davis, maintained the advantage with Eagle Orb putting in a bid from the rail. Capo Kane fended off that challenge, but Risk Taking showed the deep-closing skills that led to his win last out on December 14, easily taking command in the stretch with an outside charge, completing the course in 1:51.91.

Overtook rallied for second, with the Todd Pletcher trainee besting Capo Kane by 1 1/4 lengths for runner-up status and the four qualifying points.

Trainer Chad Brown added blinkers before Risk Taking’s previous start, and the son of Medaglia d’Oro has improved to 2-for-2 with the equipment change.

“It really made a difference. He’s a horse that always showed a lot in his morning drills as a 2-year-old and I was quite surprised that he didn’t run better in his first two starts,” said Brown, who saw Counterparty Risk win the Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs just minutes later for Klaravich Stables.

Risk Taking, the 9-5 favorite, returned $5.80 on a $2 win wager. Brown said the $240,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale could target the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 at Aqueduct. That 1 1/8-mile contest is a 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifier.

“We’ll nominate him to everything but my first reaction would be not to take him out of New York,” Brown said. He’s thriving there right now, so leave it be. I would not cut the horse back in distance from here to the Derby under any circumstances. The most logical spot would be to train him up to the Wood, but I won’t make that decision until we observe the horse and I have a chance to over it with the owner, Seth Klarman.”

Cancel, aboard Risk Taking for the first time, netted his third career graded stakes victory and first at a NYRA track since piloting Smooth Daddy in the 2017 Grade 3 Fort Marcy.

“I thought they’d go a little quicker [up front] but the instructions were to sit patient on him and just give him a really confident ride,” Cancel said. “It worked out very well. Turning for home I knew I had a lot of horse it was just matter of having to ask him and once I did and he started going, I was very confident. I never had any doubt he was going to win the race as soon as we turned for home.”

Risk Taking ran seventh in his debut going six furlongs on October 10 over Belmont Park’s Big Sandy. Following a sixth-place effort going 1 1/16 miles on the Aqueduct turf on November 14, Brown returned the Kentucky bred to the main track going two turns.

“In his debut, although the running line looks ugly, he did gallop out big,” Brown said. “It was my error to rush him onto the turf, I was looking for a distance race that didn’t have much kick back, but it just didn’t work out. So, we blinkered him up and he got his confidence under him and he really broke through in that maiden victory.”   

The conditioner said his horse’s maturity, along with Cancel’s ride, was a key factor on Saturday.

“Eric Cancel really stepped up today and I’m really proud of him,” Brown said. He’s a rider who continues to improve and he’s ridden some nice races for us in the past. Eric hasn’t ridden many for us, but he’s made them count. I couldn’t be prouder of him for the trip he gave this horse from every pole. He used him a little for position early and staying out of trouble off the fence and showing some patience.”

Overtook, ridden by Manny Franco, earned blacktype in his first stakes start, moving to 1-1-1 in four career starts.

“I know he wants to be at the back, but I didn’t want to be too far back and leave him with too much to do,” Franco said. “I thought the horse ran a good race. He’s improving race by race, so he’s done well. He’s got a nice future. The distance is no problem for him. I think that more distance will be better for him.”

Capo Kane now has 12 Derby points following his New Year’s Day victory in the Jerome.

“I hustled him out of there. I had to because there was that sprinter [Mr. Doda] outside of me, but then I was able to gain some control,” Davis said. “My horse got his nice stride going. He was breathing great for me and I really thought I was tough turning for home. He gave his heart out. He gave a hundred percent and he was very tired coming back. Eric engaged me and he had so much momentum turning for home, I didn’t have a chance to keep up with him. He ran great. I thought he ran a great race going a mile and an eighth.”

Royal Number earned a single point for his fourth-place effort, with Eagle Orb, Civil War, Donegal Bay, Shackqueenking and Mr. Doda completing the order of finish.

Live racing at Aqueduct will continue on Monday, as the entirety of Sunday’s live racing program was pushed back one day due a winter storm slated to impact the New York metropolitan area throughout the day on Sunday. Monday’s card will be highlighted by the $100,000 Ruthless, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

Aqueduct Press Release

Story by Brian Bohl

NYRA Photo: Janet Garaguso

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