A talented 3-year-old son of Macho Uno , Harlem Rocker soundly defeated 3-4 favorite J Be K, who entered the short Withers field as the lone graded stakes winner. Harlem Rocker completed the eight furlongs in 1:34.50 under Eibar Coa.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Harlem Rocker did not make his racing debut until Feb. 14 at Gulfstream Park, when he broke his maiden by 1 3/4 lengths. A little more than six weeks later the gray/roan colt won in allowance company at Gulfstream, a race in which he defeated eventual Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Samba Rooster by three-quarters of a length at one mile.
In the Withers, Zayat Stables’ J Be K, who entered off a five-length romp in the April 5 Bay Shore (gr. III), broke to the early lead from post two under Garrett Gomez. The son of Silver Deputy went a quarter in :23.91 and a half-mile in a brisk :46.41. Double Or Nothing stalked the pace about a length back, with Harlem Rocker and Pletcher’s other contender, Face the Cat, trailing the four-horse field.
J Be K had a clear two-length advantage coming out of the turn, but Coa had already asked Harlem Rocker for more and was coming with a four-wide run into the stretch. Harlem Rocker collared the leader in mid-stretch and drew away for an easy win. J Be K was 7 ¾ lengths in front of Double Or Nothing for second.
“He’s still green, but he’s one of those improving horses," Coa said. "Every time he runs, he just gets better. He’s not 100 percent yet, which is kind of scary because he can be better than this.
"I was a little concerned that he was too close to the pace today, but he took me there himself. At the five-sixteenths pole, I thought that if J Be K was good enough, he would beat us, but I knew my horse was going to finish. At the end, he was playing around because he’s still a little green, but he showed he can compete with these horses.”
Going off as the 2-1 second choice, Harlem Rocker paid $6.60 and $2.70. There was no show wagering. J Be K paid $2.30 to place. The exacta (1-2) returned $10.60.
Harlem Rocker was bred in Ontario and is out of the Lit de Justice mare Freedom Come. He earned $90,000 for the win.
“He’s still playing around out there," said Pletcher's assistant, Seth Benzel. "When he put his mind on business, he dealt with those horses fairly easily. This horse has a lot of talent and ability. It seems like he still has some room to improve.”