Sunny Ridge wins Aqueduct's Withers Stakes

NEW YORK (AP) Sunny Ridge moved into the Kentucky Derby picture with a win over Vorticity on Saturday in the $250,000 Withers Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.

The gray son of Holy Bull bred in New Jersey earned 10 qualifying points toward a Derby starting berth.

Breaking from the outside post in the six-horse field, Sunny Ridge engaged the pacesetting Vorticity coming out of the first turn. It was a two-way race the rest of the way with Sunny Ridge prevailing by three quarters of a length.

The homebred gelding for Monmouth Park executive Dennis Drazin got his third win in six starts and second stakes victory. He captured the Sapling at Monmouth last September.

It was the fifth straight stakes appearance for Sunny Ridge. He was second in his previous two races, the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park and the Delta Downs Jackpot.

Sunny Ridge, trained by Jason Servis and ridden by Manny Franco, paid $9.50, $4.20 and $5.30. The time was 1:46.99 for the 1 1/16 miles.

''I didn't want to jinx myself but I really felt good about the horse coming into the race,'' Servis said. ''I'm a little superstitious and I like to play it down.''

Servis, whose brother John trained 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, said Sunny Ridge's next race likely will be a return visit to Aqueduct for either the $400,000 Gotham Stakes on March 5 or the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 9.

Vorticity returned $6 and $7.90. Adventist, making only his second start following an 11 1/4 length debut victory, got third. He paid $8.60 to show.

Flexibility, winner of the Jerome Stakes and the 1-2 favorite, finished fourth. Donegal Moon was fifth, followed by King Kranz.

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