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ELMONT, NY – The fallout immediately following Saturday’s Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park indicates that winner Max Player, runner-up Mystic Guide, and third-place finisher Happy Saver are likely to part ways until meeting back up in November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar.
Max Player earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure for upsetting the Suburban, this year a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Classic. The victory was his first since the February 2020 Withers Stakes (G3) and was a sharp reversal of form after finishing a distant sixth in the Pimlico Special (G3).
Previously one who took back to make one sustained run, Max Player changed tactics and closely pressed the pace under Ricardo Santana Jr.
“Since the Pimlico Special, we popped him away from the gates with Ricardo a couple of times,” trainer Steve Asmussen told Daily Racing Form’s David Grening about his new running style. “It’s one thing to want to do it, and another thing to make it happen.”
Asmussen hinted that because the big effort over the 1 1/4-mile sloppy main track took a lot out of Max Player, a next race was as yet unplanned.
“Off of Max Player stepping up in the Suburban and running the best race of his life, we will give him an extra amount of time before his next race,” Asmussen said.
That means the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 7 – another “Win and You’re In” for the Classic – is unlikely.
Max Player Upsets Mystic Guide In Suburban
Mystic Guide entered the Suburban as the 4/5 favorite and took the lead in the far turn but was unable to hold off Max Player late in his first start since winning the March 27 Dubai World Cup (G1). Despite the loss, trainer Mike Stidham was in good spirits Sunday when speaking with NYRA’s Press Office.
“He looks great,” Stidham said. “He came out of the race in good shape. There were lots of factors involved. He was coming off 3 months and obviously it was a demanding racetrack he ran on. (Jockey Luis Saez) was forced to go up the rail, which was not the better part of the track. He fought back gamely and valiantly under some unfavorable circumstances.”
Mystic Guide is a Godolphin homebred like Maxfield, who won last week’s Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs to earn his spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Though they have different trainers (Maxfield is with Brendan Walsh), Godolphin may wish to keep their star 4-year-old colts separate until the World Championships.
With Maxfield aiming for the Whitney, Mystic Guide could – like Max Player – take extra time off and wait for either the Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on August 21 or the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga on September 4. Both are 1 1/4-mile dirt routes awarding berths to the Classic.
Happy Saver Passes Latest Test in Jockey Club Gold Cup
Entering the Suburban, the belief among many was that the eventual race winner, and perhaps 1-2 others, would springboard from that into the Whitney, but it seems as though only the Todd Pletcher trainee Happy Saver will point to that race next.
“We’ll see how he bounces out of it and consider the Whitney and the Jockey Club and play it by ear,” Pletcher told NYRA.
Happy Saver suffered his first defeat in his sixth career start after running wide in the slop but could only muster third in his second start of 2020 following a local one-turn dirt mile allowance score.
The 4-year-old was returning to a track and distance over which he defeated Mystic Guide in last October’s Jockey Club Gold Cup.
“I thought Happy Saver ran well,” Pletcher said. “He was stuck wide the whole way around there from that post. It was a little bit of a tricky start, but I thought he put in an honest effort.”
Silver State Stays Hot With Met Mile Victory
Other early expected contenders for the Whitney include the Asmussen-trained Silver State, who extended his current win streak to 6 in the Met Mile (G1) June 5 at Belmont Park, and Jesus’ Team, off since finishing sixth the Dubai World Cup and scheduled to make his first start back in next Sunday’s City of Dania at Gulfstream Park.
“Jesus has been training great for the City of Dania,” trainer Jose D’Angelo told Gulfstream Park’s media department. “He looks great. He put on weight and is very strong.”
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