Afleet Again took advantage of a blistering pace and collared the leaders in deep stretch to pull a 24-1 upset in the $150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 24 at Aqueduct. D' Funnybone , a four-time graded stakes winner in sprints, finished off the board as the 1-2 favorite.
Afleet Again, who finished 10th by 24 lengths in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) last month, notched his first stakes victory. Abel Mariano guided the 3-year-old son of Afleet Alex to victory for trainer Robert Reid Jr. The gray/roan colt is owned by Cash is King’s Chuck Zacney, the managing partner of 2005 dual classic winner Afleet Alex.
The one-mile race set up perfectly for Afleet Again, as he rated off a swift pace set by Castaneda, who sped through splits of :21.60, :43.82, and 1:07.45 under Jorge Chavez. D’ Funnybone, entering off a pair of seven-furlong grade II scores at Gulfstream Park, overcame a shaky opening-quarter when he was near the pace, dropped back briefly after being steadied, then was rushed up along the rail again by jockey Edgar Prado, before closely tracking the leader. Ibboyee, the 8-5 second choice, sat patiently in third through the backstretch, while Afleet Again was further off the pace.
Castaneda still narrowly led when they came off the turn, but D’ Funnybone and Ibboyee quickly drew even with the tiring pacesetter. D’ Funnybone tried to move between horses, but Ibboyee claimed the lead approaching the stretch under John Velazquez and easily put his rival away.
Afleet Again, however, was also coming with his five-wide run, and he ran down Ibboyee inside the sixteenth-pole despite drifting toward the center of the racetrack. He crossed the wire a 1 1/2-length winner while stopping the clock in 1:34.05 over a fast main track. Ibboyee was 4 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Spangled Star. D’Funnybone tired to finish another 4 1/2 lengths back in fourth.
“It was my first time riding this horse,” Mariano said. “The trainer told me that the track was deep here and the stretch was long. He told me don’t go too wide, let him break, and when you get to the quarter pole put him outside. That’s what I did, my horse responded, and I won. I’m very excited, very happy.”
Afleet Again had won just one of four starts this season—a Jan. 17 allowance race at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack—entering the race and was not considered for the Withers until the day entries were taken.
“We really hadn’t considered this race before Wednesday,” Reid admitted. “(But) it was a small field and I love the one-turn mile for him, and the big, sweeping turns here.
“He’s a big, giant horse and you don’t want to get him checked. Abel took him to the outside and gave him a clear run, and that’s what made the difference; very nice ride. We were concerned the race was a little too short for him; I believe he’s a legitimate mile and an eighth, mile and a quarter horse, but that said, he’s not eligible for the Triple Crown races.”
Afleet Again improved to 3-1-2 from 10 starts and upped his earnings to $177,950. Bred in Kentucky by Roll Z Dice Stable, he is out of the Wild Again mare Lucky Again.
The winner paid $51, $9.90 and a whopping $46.60. Ibboyee paid $3.90 and $10, while 28-1 Spangled Star returned lucky show bettors $54. The exacta (4-6) was $143.50 and the trifecta (4-6-5) netted $750.
Of D’ Funnybone’s disappointing effort, Prado said: “On the backside he kind of shied away from the horse coming in (Castaneda). I had the chance to get out, and I didn’t want to be trapped inside. He just didn’t have the finish. The mile got him.”