For the most part, Avery Island has been a relatively quiet prospect on the Road to the Kentucky Derby but the three-year-old’s dazzling season debut in the 2018 Withers Stakes has cemented him as a horse to watch. It was a tight race at first but Avery Island played his part perfectly.
Coltandmississippi was the narrow leader as a 34/1 longshot ahead of Avery island, who went off as the even money favorite. Firenze Fire (5/2), Marconi (5/2) and Bal Harbour (9/2) were in hot pursuit as the five horse field hit fractions of :23.32, :47.08 and 1:11.57 at the three-quarter pole.
As they hit the last turn of the 2018 Withers Stakes, Bal Harbour dropped out of contention as Marconi came from all the way back to challenge the leaders. Firenze Fire dug deep but was only strong enough for second and looked to be a clear step behind Avery Island during the entirety of the final stretch.
But nobody was going to catch Avery Island this day. He cruised to a comfortable two-length lead in a fast time of 1:51.01 over the 1 1/8th mile course. “It looked like he was push-button,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “It was a great run. Joe Bravo rode him very well, letting the other speed go and sitting second. He did everything right and finished strong.”
With a win in the 2018 Withers Stakes, Avery Island earns 10 points on the derby trail to go along with his runner-up finish in the Remsen and a win in the Nashua last season.
The victory paid out $4.30, $2.80 and $2.10 for Avery Island’s backers while Firenze Fire was worth $3.40 and $2.20 in second. Marconi, who rounded out the top three, delivered $2.30.
Elsewhere on the weekend, Lombo upset the field in the 2018 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Audible won the Holy Bull Stakes as well, finishing ahead of Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief. All three were 3/1 co-second favorites behind Enticed, who finished fourth.