May 18, 2024

Courvoisier faces familiar foes in Withers

Courvoiser wins the Jerome Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

After breaking his maiden in his fourth start, Courvoisier made a successful jump to stakes competition in the Jerome on New Year’s Day. He’ll seek his second consecutive Kentucky Derby qualifier at Aqueduct, and square off against five rivals from his stakes and maiden wins, when lining up for Saturday’s $250,000 Withers S. (G3).

A total of 11 runners are entered, and the 1 1/8-mile Withers will award 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Courvoisier, a $600,000 weanling purchase, captured the Jerome over a one-turn mile on a sloppy track, rallying from just off the pace to score by a 1 1/4-length margin, but the added ground should be no obstacle. The Kelly Breen-trained chestnut colt broke his maiden at Saturday’s distance on a fast Aqueduct track in early December.

By three-time leading sire Tapit and out of 2014 champion two-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi, Courvoisier will add the services of Ruben Silvera.

Smarten Up, who closed fast for runner-up honors in the Jerome, will be running late. Anthony Salgado retains the mount for Alfredo Velazquez. Nashua (G3) runner-up Cooke Creek, third as the 7-5 favorite in the Jerome, is also back for Jeremiah O’Dwyer and Manny Franco.

Unbridled Bomber and Mr Jefferson, fourth and sixth last time, complete the Jerome contingent. Constitutionlawyer, third to Courvoisier in a maiden special weight two starts back, will make his stakes debut after graduating by a 3 1/2-length margin on Jan. 2. Jose Lezcano rides for Raymond Handal.

Early Voting is a contender for Chad Brown after winning at first asking in mid-December, edging away to a 1 1/2-length decision in a one-mile maiden special weight as the odds-on favorite. Jose Ortiz, who was up on Courvoisier in the Jerome, will stick with the Gun Runner colt.

Completing the field are stakes-placed Un Ojo; Noneedtoworry, who exits maiden and entry-level allowance triumphs at Parx; and last-out maiden winners Gilded Age and Grantham.