What WinStar Farm's Revolutionary lacks in seasoning he made up for in heart at Aqueduct Racetrack Feb. 2, closing late with a tremendously game effort to win the $200,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) by a neck (VIDEO).
Last at the head of the stretch and stuck down on the rail under jockey Javier Castellano, the 3-year-old son of War Pass charged from the sixteenth pole to the wire, splitting horses bravely to get up over Escapefromreality by a neck in the shadow of the line.
The 1 1/16-mile dirt score over seven other runners gave the 3-5 favorite Revolutionary 10 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and a tremendous amount of experience in what proved to be an adventurous edition of the 3-year-old prep. It was the colt's second win in five starts for trainer Todd Pletcher; he came off an 8 1/2-length maiden victory going a mile on the inner track Dec. 28.
Breaking from post 2, Revolutionary was far back after an eventful start in which the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Valid went to his knees from post 2 and nearly unseated jockey Junior Alvarado, who amazingly managed to stay aboard. Alvarado regained the irons after the first few strides and although Revolutionary maintained his composure in spite of the distraction, he was far back heading to the first turn.
"The horse has a tendency to not get away cleanly and got himself a little farther back than we would have liked," said Pletcher's assistant trainer, Michael McCarthy. "Things went from bad to worse from there, but Javier didn't panic and had faith in the horse. We've known all along the horse had ability. When you are pointing for the Derby, this is a huge steppingstone. That was a big, big step today against some proven horses."
Escapefromreality closed from fifth to take the lead over Siete de Oros, but Revolutionary kicked in with a sharp burst from the sixteenth pole and split horses to get the win in a final time of 1:44.32 in spite of repeatedly changing leads down the stretch.
"I think the key with him is that you have to be patient," Castellano remarked. "I could have gone around horses at the three-eighths pole because I had so much horse, but I just wanted to teach him something, have him learn something. I knew he could get it done; in my mind it was just waiting for the best opportunity to make a move. That's exactly what I did, and he responded so well today.
"He kind of got intimidated a little bit between horses, he's a young horse, but I really like the way he did it," Castellano continued. "He split horses, finished very strong, and galloped out great. He's a horse with potential. I would have liked to be close to the pace—second, third, or fourth. It didn't work out that way... But the way the race developed, he learned a lot and I think he's going to go forward."
Revolutionary returned $3.50, $3, and $2.10 while Escapefromreality brought $10.20 and $7. Siete de Oros, 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third, paid $5.10. Amerigo Vespucci, Champion Boy, Smooth Bert, Valid, and Long River completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish out of the grade I-winning A.P. Indy mare Runup the Colors, Revolutionary improved his record to 2-1-2 from five starts, with earnings of $188,500. He was a $235,000 purchase by WinStar Farm from the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s 2012 select sale of 2-year-olds in training after being pinhooked for $80,000 from the 2011 Keeneland Association September yearling sale by Valera Stable.
"I'd be inclined to take him to Florida and regroup until the last round of preps," said Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm. "Probably just one more race (before the Derby). This proved he's worthy to keep on the trail. This race was worth three in terms of education. When you're looking at a race like the Derby potentially down the road, to get that kind of experience, it's invaluable."