J Be K faces just three foes in the April 26 Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct.

J Be K faces just three foes in the April 26 Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct.

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J Be K Faces Short Field in Withers

The Steve Asmussen trainee will try for his fourth win in five career starts April 26

Todd Pletcher will saddle half of the four-horse field in the $150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III), but even favorable odds may not be enough to overcome the talent of J Be K, who goes for his fourth win in five starts April 26 at Aqueduct.

Because the one-mile Withers drew just four, it was moved to race 3 on the 10-race program. Post time is scheduled for 1:58 p.m. EDT. The 2006 Withers was captured by eventual Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Bernardini.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, J Be K was superb in his latest effort, a five-length score in the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) April 5 at Aqueduct. It was the third consecutive sprint victory for the son of Silver Deputy, who set the 5 1/2-furlong Saratoga course record while breaking his maiden last summer, and then won an allowance event by five lengths at Fair Grounds in February.

Owned by Zayat Stables, J Be K’s lone setback came in the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles.

“He came out of the Bay Shore in really good shape,” said Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s top New York assistant. “He’s a classy horse and a pleasure to be around. For a sprinter, he’s pretty easy-going and he’ll do what you want in the morning. Obviously, he’s got a lot of ability, and I think Steve is doing the right thing with him.”

J Be K battled for the early lead in the Bay Shore through fractions of :22.38 and :45.21 before easily kicking clear for an impressive score in 1:23.67. 

Out of the Valid Wager mare Major Wager, J Be K was bred in Kentucky by Glory Days Breeding. He turned in a :50.20 five-furlong breeze April 21 at Belmont Park. Garrett Gomez will ride.

Pletcher will counter with Padua Stables’ Face the Cat and Stronach Stables’ homebred Harlem Rocker, both owning victories over eight furlongs. Face the Cat broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park Jan. 4 and less than a month later returned to South Florida for a wire-to-wire four-length allowance win at a mile. The Tale of the Cat colt’s lone setback this year came in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I), when he was over-matched by Big Brown while finishing eighth.

Also spending the winter at Gulfstream was Harlem Rocker, a late-blooming 3-year-old by Macho Uno . The undefeated Harlem Rocker made his racing debut Feb. 14 at Gulfstream, coming from off the pace to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Six weeks later, he again came from behind in allowance company, getting up just before the wire to defeat Samba Rooster, who went on to run second in the April 18 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.

Bred in Canada, Harlem Rocker will retain regular rider Eibar Coa and break from the rail.

The fourth entry is Rick Dutrow Jr. trainee Double Or Nothing, a heavily-raced 3-year-old by Double Honor. A Florida-bred, Double Or Nothing comes off a half-length score in the March 22 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park. Prior to that, the bay gelding won a six-furlong starter allowance at Aqueduct by 7 1/4 lengths.

Double Or Nothing, who was claimed by Dutrow after breaking his maiden at Saratoga last summer, is 3-5-0 from 12 lifetime starts. Edgar Prado will ride for the first time.

$150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III, Race 3, 1:58 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Harlem Rocker (ON), 116, Eibar Coa
2. J Be K (KY), 123, Garrett K. Gomez
3. Double Or Nothing (FL), 118, Edgar S. Prado
4. Face the Cat (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez