risk taking the withers credit joe labozzetta
Risk Taking took the Withers. Photo by Joe Labozzetta/NYRA.

Klaravich Stables’ Risk Taking proved in his maiden score he could win going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack, and that success at two turns proved beneficial on Saturday when he overtook pacesetter Capo Kane in the final furlong and powered home a 3 3/4-length winner of the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers for 3-year-olds at the Big A.

And at Tampa Bay Downs, second betting choice Candy Man Rocket powered to a one-length score in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Both winners earned 10 points towards Kentucky Derby entry.

Risk Taking, who finished off the board in splitting his first two starts between the main track and turf, again found a comfort zone going longer, capturing the 145th running of the Withers, a Grade 1 Kentucky Derby prep race awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers.

Jerome-winner Capo Kane broke well from post 3 and lead the nine-horse field though the opening quarter-mile in 24.02 seconds, the half in 48.71 and three-quarters in 1:13.17 on the fast main track.

Risk Taking also broke alertly from post 5 under jockey Eric Cancel, settling in sixth position and content to let others do the heavy lifting. Out of the turn, Capo Kane, under jockey Dylan Davis, maintained the advantage with Eagle Orb putting in a bid from the rail. Capo Kane fended off that challenge, but Risk Taking showed the deep-closing skills that led to his win last out on December 14, easily taking command in the stretch with an outside charge, completing the course in 1:51.91.

Overtook rallied for second, with the Todd Pletcher trainee besting Capo Kane by 1 1/4 lengths for runner-up status and the four qualifying points.

Trainer Chad Brown added blinkers before Risk Taking’s previous start, and the son of Medaglia d’Oro has improved to 2-for-2 with the equipment change.

“It really made a difference. He’s a horse that always showed a lot in his morning drills as a 2-year-old and I was quite surprised that he didn’t run better in his first two starts,” said Brown, who saw Counterparty Risk win the Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs just minutes later for Klaravich Stables.

Risk Taking, the 9-5 favorite, returned $5.80 on a $2 win wager. Brown said the $240,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale could target the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 at Aqueduct. That 1 1/8-mile contest is a 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifier.

“We’ll nominate him to everything but my first reaction would be not to take him out of New York,” Brown said. “He’s thriving there right now, so leave it be. I would not cut the horse back in distance from here to the Derby under any circumstances. The most logical spot would be to train him up to the Wood, but I won’t make that decision until we observe the horse and I have a chance to go over it with the owner, Seth Klarman.”

Cancel, aboard Risk Taking for the first time, netted his third career graded stakes victory and first at a NYRA track since piloting Smooth Daddy in the 2017 Grade 3 Fort Marcy.

“I thought they’d go a little quicker [up front] but the instructions were to sit patient on him and just give him a really confident ride,” Cancel said. “It worked out very well. Turning for home I knew I had a lot of horse it was just matter of having to ask him and once I did and he started going, I was very confident. I never had any doubt he was going to win the race as soon as we turned for home.”

Capo Kane, trained at Parx Racing by Harry Wyner, held third and earned two Derby points. He now has a total of 12. That’s good for seventh overall .

A pair of Maryland shippers also competed in the Withers. Royal Number, trained by Mike Trombetta for himself and R. Larry Johnson, rallied into fourth place to earn one Derby point. And the Gary Capuano-trained Shackqueenking finished eighth.

Candy Man Rocket’s win in the Sam Davis gave him 10 total points on the Derby trail. The Bill Mott trainee — Mott runners ran one-two, with Nova Rags finishing second — is one of nine horses with 10 points thus far.