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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player replicated his last-out winning stalking trip to similar success, getting his first taste of Grade 1 glory for winning Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Saratoga.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Max Player receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar this November.
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Max Player broke from post 2 under Ricardo Santana Jr. as the 3/1 third choice in the field of six older males and settled off the right hip of Forza Di Oro, the rail-breaking 6/5 favorite.
After closely tracking the bettors’ choice through opening fractions of :24.05, :48.70, and 1:13.14, Max Player ranged up to apply pressure in the far turn and soon met Forza Di Oro’s eye.
Overtaking the pacesetter by the 1/8 pole, the Steve Asmussen trainee drew off late to win the 1 1/4-mile fast dirt route by 4 lengths in 2:02.49.
“I was happy with him,” said Santana Jr. “Today, he broke good, so I was really happy with it. The trainer is doing all the work.”
The 2/1 second choice Happy Saver took second over Forza Di Oro by a 1/2-length. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Happy Saver won last year’s running when it was held at Belmont Park.
“I thought he ran very well,” Pletcher said. “We got bottled up in behind horses in a pace-less race. He ran on well, but we’d benefit from a more truly-run race. I’m proud of his effort.”
Trainer Bill Mott had no immediate response for Forza Di Oro’s disappointing finish as the favorite.
“I’m disappointed that he didn’t get the 10 furlongs,” Mott said. “I just didn’t think he had any excuse.”
Night Ops, Chess Chief, and Forewarned completed the order of finish.
Max Player’s win was his second straight after closely stalking and narrowly winning July’s 1 1/2-mile Suburban Stakes (G2) in the Belmont Park slop. The 4-year-old Honor Code colt’s record now stands at 11-4-1-2 with $1,252,500 earned.
“It was beautiful,” Asmussen said. “Max, in the Suburban, ran that race under different circumstances on an off track. For him to do this on a fast track in the Jockey Club Gold Cup here at Saratoga, it is very satisfying. This is who he is, and I thought it was a dominating win.”
Max Player returned $9.60 to win, $4.70 to place, and $2.60 to show. Happy Saver brought back $3.80 to place and $2.20 to show. Forza Di Oro paid $2.10 to show.
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