FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality-winner Seminole Chief steps onto the Triple Crown Trail Saturday at Aqueduct when the Florida-bred colt makes his 2024 debut in the Grade 3 Withers. A field of nine 3-year-olds have been assembled for the mile-and-one-eighth Withers, which offers a purse of $250,000 and 42 qualifying points for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve—to be divided 20-10-6-4-2 among the top five finishers.

Trained by Jack Sisterson, the Brad and Misty Grady homebred Seminole Chief broke his maiden by eight lengths at Finger Lakes in his first career start in September before shipping to Gulfstream Park for the Florida Sire Stakes. Unfortunately, he was bumped at the start of the $200,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed going seven furlongs in October and finished sixth behind winner Bentornato. He then appeared to relish the added distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth with Paco Lopez aboard for the first time in the $400,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality, winning by a half-length at odds of 12-1.

“[Seminole Chief] is a grinding type and with the addition of blinkers and an aggressive ride by Paco [Lopez], it helped him get comfortable. They went quick enough on the lead,” Sisterson said of the In Reality victory. “He’s still learning—he didn’t switch leads, although he switched leads perfectly in the morning. He needs to figure that out in the afternoon to move forward again.

“We always thought he would be a better horse going two turns. He’s well balanced, good bone and very strong. He’s a horse you like in the barn because you think he’s only going to get better as he gets older. He loves to train and he’s got a great foundation. He’s not one of those types you have to be light on him because you worry physically about how he’s built. I’d like to have 10 like him.”

Seminole Chief is by Girvin out of Secret Song, by Dunkirk and has earned $195,960 in his three races. He was an $80,000 purchase by HND Bloodstock at last year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales June Sale where he was consigned by Bobby Dodd.

Seminole Chief has post five and will be ridden by Trevor McCarthy. They are listed at 12-1 on the morning line.

Favored at 8-5 in the program is Lightline for trainer Brad Cox and owner Albaugh Family Stables LLC.

The bay son of City of Light broke his maiden at Horseshoe Indianapolis in September then finished second twice, most recently against non-winners of two, $80,000 optional claimers going a mile at Oaklawn Park on Dec. 31.

Lightline has earned $69,850 in three starts and will break from post three in the Withers.

Also look for El Grande O from the barn of Linda Rice.

El Grande O comes into the Withers off a second-place finish to Drum Roll in the $145,000 Jerome going a mile at Aqueduct on Jan. 6 and is the richest and most experienced Withers entrant with three wins, four seconds and a third in nine career starts while banking $349,000.

Kendrick Carmouche gets the return mount on El Grande O, who has two stakes wins against state-breds in the $200,000 Sleepy Hollow over a muddy one mile two starts back during the Belmont at Big A meet and in the $200,000 Funny Cide in August at Saratoga.

El Grande O has post four.

Completing the field are Speed Runner with Jose Lezcano named to ride, Deposition with jockey Dexter Haddock, Society Man and rider Isaac Castillo, Mission Beach with Dylan Davis up, Uncle Heavy and Mychel Sanchez and Eric Cancel rides Khanate.

Return to the Feb. 2 issue of Wire to Wire