ELMONT, NY – Now unbeaten through 4 career starts, Wertheimer and Frere homebred Happy Saver passed his latest test in Saturday’s $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Happy Saver receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Classic at Keeneland this November.
Happy Saver broke from the rail under Irad Ortiz Jr. as the 2/1 second choice in the five-horse field and momentarily went to the lead before the 3/5 favorite Tacitus took over.
While Happy Saver settled inside of fellow 3-year-old Mystic Guide, Tacitus posted opening fractions of :24.93, :49.68, and 1:13.61.
Mystic Guide inched forward in the far turn and made a three-wide move past Tacitus for the lead, but he soon met a challenge from Happy Saver, surging along the rail.
Outgunning Mystic Guide inside the 1/16 pole, the Todd Pletcher trainee crossed 3/4 of a length clear while completing the 1 1/4-mile fast dirt route in 2:01.77.
“He has a big heart, like I told Todd in the paddock,” Ortiz Jr. said after giving Pletcher his first victory in this race “He’s a fighter. Every time he has a horse in front of him and when you ask him to go, he passes the horse and then he puts his ears up. He still had something after he went by (Mystic Guide).”
Mystic Guide finished 1 1/4 ahead of Tacitus, while Priotize and Name Changer completed the strung-out order of finish.
Happy Saver’s win streak, now at 4, began with a maiden-breaking debut over this course on June 20 before defeating older allowance rivals at Saratoga, then romping in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park. The Super Saver colt’s connections bypassed his free entry into last week’s Preakness Stakes (G1) in favor of this spot, where the $137,500 first-place prize increased his career earnings to $273,400.
“It was emotional,” said Ortiz Jr., who was aboard the Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso (the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic [G1] winner) in last year’s running. “I wanted to win it so bad. Last year, I got DQ’d and that was for Todd, too. He’s a cool horse, a special horse. I rode him first time out and we knew he was a nice horse. Todd has always liked him.”
Happy Saver returned $6.70 to win and $5.50 to place, while Mystic Guide paid $7.70 to place. There was no show betting.