Scrappy T, a distant third behind Bellamy Road in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) three weeks ago, found Saturday's $150,000 Withers (gr. III) more to his liking. The Fit to Fight gelding seized the lead from War Plan at the quarter pole and outlasted Park Avenue Ball for a one-length victory at foggy Aqueduct Park Saturday.
A Kentucky-bred ridden by Norberto Arroyo for trainer Robert Bailes and owner Marshall E. Dowell, Scrappy T completed the one-turn mile in 1:35 3/5 on sealed track listed as good.
Scrappy T had turned in the finest previous effort of his career on a good Aqueduct inner track Jan. 15, when he won the Count Fleet in gate-to-wire fashion. After his saddle slipped and he was beaten by more than 18 lengths by Bellamy Road April 9 – while only three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up Survivalist – he was ignored at odds of 7-1 Saturday.
His Withers win, however, puts him back into the Triple Crown mix, even though he will skip the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Instead, Bailes has his sights on the Preakness (gr. I) at Pimlico on May 21.
"Everything went great," Bailes said. "Norberto judged the pace very well. The only thing that worried me was that when he makes the lead early, he gets to looking around. But Norberto kept him working. His saddle slipped in the Wood Memorial, and that definitely cost him second.
"This is a nice colt and I think he is still learning. He's going to have to learn real quick, because we're on our way to Maryland for the Preakness."
The dark bay was well in hand as he pressured War Plan on the outside through moderate fractions of :23 3/5, :47 and 1:11 1/5, grabbing the lead and drawing clear in the stretch while driving to victory over a game Park Avenue Ball. The latter, ridden by Javier Castellano, was on the inside just behind the leaders while racing alongside 9-5 favorite B.B. Best, angling out for the stretch run and making it close.
"We had the outside post," Arroyo said. "I knew (B.B. Best) had speed and (War Plan) had speed. If they both went, I was going to sit off them; if no one went, I was going to go. It worked out good. The outside post was a good fit for this horse. He dragged me the whole way, and when I asked him to run, he responded."
It was 2 1/4 lengths to War Plan, third with Jose Santos aboard, followed by Naughty New Yorker, Survivalist, B.B. Best and Proud Accolade, the 5-2 second choice who was never involved.
"He didn't want to pay attention," said Jorge Chavez, jockey of B. B. Best. "He was looking around the whole time. His mind was everywhere."
Scrappy T, a $35,000 Ocala buy a year ago, improved his career mark to 3-4-2 in nine starts with earnings of $279,120.
He paid $16.40, $7.30 and $4.60 combining for a $145 exacta with the 13-1 Park Avenue Ball ($11.40, $6.90), who captured last year's Belmont Futurity (gr. II) but is now winless in four starts in 2005. War Plan was $7.40 to show in his stakes debut, rounding out a $1,346 trifecta.