Jul 4, 2021
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Max Player earns career-best 101 Beyer from G2 Suburban triumph

by NYRA Press Office

  • Max Player earns career-best 101 Beyer from G2 Suburban triumph
  • Mystic Guide returns to Fair Hill following G2 Suburban runner-up finish
  • Happy Saver could regroup in G1 Whitney
  • Truth Hurts has many options after off-the-turf Perfect Sting score
  • Jesus’ Team to target G1 Whitney
  • Wolfie’s Dynaghost likely to stick with main track racing after Saturday’s win; Sadler’s Joy on track for Grand Couturier
  • Cross Country Pick 5 tallies total pool of $112K; pays $373

George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player put his best foot forward on Saturday when outdueling Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide in the stretch to capture the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban at Belmont Park, garnering a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 4-year-old son of third-crop sire Honor Code tracked Moretti's moderate pace and remained in the clear as Mystic Guide made an inside rally around the far turn. Despite Mystic Guide’s persistence, Max Player came out on top, besting the odds-on favorite by a neck under jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.

In capturing the ten-furlong “Win And You’re In” qualifier, Max Player earned an automatic entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6 at Del Mar.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Max Player was winless in his prior half-dozen starts heading into the Suburban with his previous victory taking place in the Grade 3 Withers last February at Aqueduct. He was subsequently third in last year's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and Grade 1 Runhappy Travers, both of which were won by Tiz the Law.

“He came out of it in good shape, ate up, got a nice little roll in the grass. He’s very happy,” said Asmussen’s Belmont-based assistant Toby Sheets.

Max Player arrived at the Suburban off a distant sixth in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 14, and shipped straight to Belmont Park, recording five breezes over the training track.

“He gradually improved; he loves it here,” Sheets said. “He got to do some things that helped him. I’m very happy with him. The way he ran shows how he improved.”

The triumph gave Asmussen a second victory in the Suburban after sending out New York-bred Haynesfield to victory in the 2010 edition.

Bred in Kentucky by K & G Stables, Max Player is out of the stakes-winning Not For Love mare Fools in Love, who also produced Seahenge – a Group 2 winner in England. 

Mystic Guide to regroup following G2 Suburban runner-up finish

Godolphin’s Mystic Guide was already back at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Sunday morning following his game runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park.

The son of Ghostzapper, out of multiple Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Music Note, arrived at the classic-distance engagement off a 3 ¾-length victory in the Group 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 27 at Meydan Racecourse.

Although he came up a neck shy of victory in the Suburban, Mystic Guide fought gamely under jockey Luis Saez to the inside of Max Player over the sloppy and sealed racetrack.

Never off the board in nine lifetime starts, Mystic Guide boasts a record of 4-3-2 with previous stakes victories taking place in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on September 5 at Saratoga and his seasonal commencement in the Grade 3 Razorback on February 27 at Oaklawn Park. He brags lifetime earnings in excess of $7.5 million.

Trainer Michael Stidham identified several elements that went against Mystic Guide on Saturday, but said he was happy to see a good performance from his star pupil.

“He looks great. He came out of the race in good shape,” Stidham said. “There were lots of factors involved. He was coming off three months and obviously it was a demanding racetrack he ran on. 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.”

While the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic remains the ultimate goal, the next step Mystic Guide will take to get there is unknown.

“Nothing about what happened Saturday changed our plans of getting to the Breeders’ Cup,” Stidham said. “We’ll get him back to training and that will give us some time to compute it all. There are plenty of options.”

Stidham confirmed that Mystic Guide's consistent half-brother and stable mate Gershwin will seek a second consecutive graded stakes triumph in Monday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer going a one-turn mile over the Belmont main track.

The son of Distorted Humor was a last out winner of an off-the-turf edition of the Grade 3 Penn Mile on May 28 at Penn National.

Stidham scratched Gershwin from Saturday's Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park in favor of the Dwyer. Like Mystic Guide, Gershwin also has never finished off the board, bragging a record of 5-2-1-2.

Stidham also confirmed M and M Stable’s graded stakes-winner Princess Grace, who was scratched from Saturday's off-the-turf $100,000 Perfect Sting at Belmont, will race in the Grade 3, $200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial on July 6 at Parx Racing. The 4-year-old daughter of Karakontie last raced when capturing the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere in November at Churchill Downs.

Happy Saver could regroup in G1 Whitney

Hall of Fame Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver and Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moretti to finish third and fourth, respectively, in Saturday’s Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont.

Happy Saver, who bested Mystic Guide in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in October at Belmont, entered Saturday’s test undefeated in five starts.

Leaving from the outermost post 6 in the Suburban under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Happy Saver tracked in fourth position, outside of Mystic Guide, as Moretti set the early splits.

Mystic Guide made a strong inside move into the turn but the four-wide Happy Saver failed to fire his best shot, closing to complete the trifecta as Max Player upset Mystic Guide by a neck.

“I thought Happy Saver ran well,” said Pletcher. “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. They both came back very well.”

Pletcher said he’ll take some time to consider options, although the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 7 at Saratoga is a possibility.

“We'll see how he bounces out of it and consider the Whitney and the Jockey Club and play it by ear,” said Pletcher.

The Whitney offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup is slated for September 4 at Saratoga and also offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

A number of Pletcher stars were on the work tab Sunday at Belmont, including Spendthrift Farm’s Following Sea, a Runhappy colt, who is pointed to the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 17 at Monmouth Park.

Following Sea breezed five-eighths in 1:00.80 over a dirt training track rated good.

“He breezed well and we're still on target for the Haskell,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher said Shadwell Stable's Malathaat, who worked a half-mile in 49.49 on the dirt training track, remains on target for the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies on July 24 at Saratoga

"She looked great. Everything is going smoothly with her," said Pletcher.

Shadwell Stable's Mahaamel, who was slated to start in Monday's Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer, was clocked in 49.90 on the dirt training track.

"We were thinking about the Dwyer and unfortunately he got a bit of a cough and knocked us off a breeze last week. We'll consider an allowance race for him," said Pletcher.

Pletcher's potential starters in Saturday's Turf Triple series races breezed a half-mile Sunday on the dirt training track with Con Lima [50.59] targeting the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks and CHC and WinStar Farm's Sainthood [49.65] eyeing a turf debut in the Grade 1, $ 1 million Belmont Derby. 

"They both breezed well and are on track for next weekend," said Pletcher.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Del Toro, Eric Nikolaus and Troy Johnson's Con Lima is exiting a sharp win in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 3 on the Belmont turf, while Sainthood captured an off-the-turf edition of the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge on May 29.

"We were hoping to get that turf try in the Pennine Ridge but it ended up working out OK, so we'll find out next week," said Pletcher.

Truth Hurts has many options after off-the-turf Perfect Sting score

Truth Hurts, trained and co-owned by Chad Summers with J Stables, flourished in the slop, posting a 5 3/4-length score in Saturday’s off-the-turf $100,000 Perfect Sting at one-mile for older fillies and mares at Belmont.

Entered for the main-track only, Truth Hurts drew in and tracked the early speed of Piedi Bianchi under a sharp steer by Luis Saez. Truth Hurts was asked for her best into the turn and responded with a smart turn-of-foot to secure the win, garnering a 76 Beyer.

Summers said the addition of blinkers has honed the Ontario-bred daughter of Tonalist’s natural pace.

“I think adding blinkers put a little more speed into her. She's been really good in the morning time since we put blinkers on her,” said Summers. “She's been more aggressive than she has been in the past.

“She's happy with herself this morning,” Summers added. “She cooled out really quickly and is real happy this morning, bouncing around the shed row.”

Summers said he will consider many options for Truth Hurts, including the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on July 28 at Saratoga; or possibly the seven-furlong Grade 3 Seaway on the Woodbine Tapeta on August 21.

“I don't want to go a mile and an eighth with her anymore. I think a mile is as far as she wants to go,” Summers said. “With that in mind, it's just a matter of seeing what's out there. We could look at a race like the Honorable Miss cutting back to three quarters. We'll take a look around and evaluate the filly sprint division and if she comes back and needs more time, we can wait. There's plenty of options out there.”

Summers said he will have 15 stalls at Saratoga for the upcoming 40-day summer meet that kicks off on July 15.

"We have a lot of exciting babies and we want to take our time with them and do right by them and get them in the right spots," said Summers. "Saratoga has my favorite races over there, the maiden auction races for horses bought for $45,000 or less. So, we'll take a look at the condition book and see what shakes free."

NYRA Maiden Allowance Auction Series races are restricted to horses that sold or RNA’d for $45,000 or less at their most recent auction.

The Maiden Allowance Auction Series races offer purses of $80,000 and will also include up to $13,920 in New York Breeding Fund open company owners awards for New York-breds finishing first through third.

Summers said he is looking forward to the debut of Cee Are Em, a $25,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The bay daughter of Orb is out of the Known Fact mare Database, who produced the multiple graded stakes winning turfer Data Link.

"She's going to run in the auction race on the grass in book two," said Summers. "She works well on the dirt, but with her pedigree being a half to Data Link, we'll want to take a shot on the grass first time out."

Jesus’ Team to target G1 Whitney

Trainer Jose D'Angelo said Grupo 7 C Racing Stable’s Jesus' Team will make his return in the City of Dania, a one-mile test for 3-year-olds and up on July 11 at Gulfstream before shipping to Saratoga with an eye towards the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Whitney, which offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Jesus' Team breezed five-eighths in 1:00.65 in company with the Carlos David-trained allowance winner Real Talk on Saturday on the Palm Meadows dirt.

"He's doing well. He's ready to run next weekend. He worked really good yesterday," said D'Angelo. "I think he needs this race to get ready and get back to what we did last year and qualify for the Breeders' Cup."

Last year, Jesus' Team finished third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga ahead of a third in the Grade 1 Preakness in October at Pimlico. The Tapiture grey turned back in distance and ran a closing second at odds of 62-1 in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland in November, before closing his campaign with a win in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream.

Jesus' Team has made two starts this year, finishing second in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January at Gulfstream and sixth in the 10-furlong Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan.

D'Angelo said Jesus' Team can be effective at a mile and up depending on the race shape.

"He's good at a distance but he ran well in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He just needs a good pace in front of him," said D'Angelo. "Coming off the layoff, he's good at one mile at Gulfstream"

D'Angelo said he is looking forward to returning to Saratoga with Jesus' Team.

"Last year was good for racing but with no fans at Saratoga it was weird, because we're used to seeing Saratoga full of good people and a nice environment and ambience," said D'Angelo. "I hope this year to see Saratoga full of people and that we can have a good time with Jesus, too." 

Wolfie’s Dynaghost likely to stick with main track racing after Saturday’s win; Sadler’s Joy on track for Grand Couturier

Woodslane Farm’s Wolfie’s Dynaghost capitalized on the weather conditions on Saturday, besting a seven-horse field of optional claimers by two lengths in a 1 1/16 mile-contest that was moved off the turf.

The effort marked the second win in three career starts for the sophomore Ghostzapper colt, who won his debut going seven furlongs in November over an off Aqueduct track in his only race as a juvenile. After being elevated in class in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 8 at Belmont, Wolfie’s Dynaghost ran fifth over a fast track.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost was set to make his first start on turf before the weather altered plans. Instead, the Kentucky homebred earned a personal-best 87 Beyer for his win over the sloppy and sealed Big Sandy, improving to 2-for-2 on off tracks.

“He came out of it in really good shape and I thought it was a very impressive race out of him,” Albertrani said. “We weren’t quite sure what his preferred surface is. He’s won twice on wet tracks. The Peter Pan was a bit of a head scratcher; we don’t know if it was the dry track he didn’t prefer or maybe we were throwing him in the deep end. We always felt he had a lot of talent, but maybe it wasn’t the right race to prep him up to.”

Wolfie’s Dynaghost is a half-brother to stablemate Sadler’s Joy, a four-time graded stakes-winner on the turf. Albertrani said he wanted to see if Wolfie’s Dynaghost might agree with running on the grass but will likely keep him on the main track for now.

“I still have my doubts whether he might be a grass horse or not, but I think going forward, we’ll probably run him back on the dirt again until he runs a bad run and then maybe change surfaces again and try the turf,” Albertrani said. “In the Peter Pan, he was galloping along on the lead and threw in the towel early. That’s why we were a little confused and thought maybe the switch to turf might have been the way to go. But he showed yesterday that he does run well on a wet track as well, so we’ll see what’s in store next. We’ll definitely try the dirt until he runs a bad one.”

Sadler’s Joy has been unlucky with the weather, with rain and the prospect of soft turf preventing him from racing since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 27 at Gulfstream Park. Despite rain over the weekend at Belmont, Albertrani said the forecast for Monday’s holiday card at Belmont should be dry, allowing the 8-year-old veteran to compete in the 1 1/2-mile $150,000 Grand Couturier over the Widener turf.

“Luckily, it looks like tomorrow will be a good day for the turf, hopefully we don’t have any more rain in the forecast,” Albertrani said. “He’s doing well. We’re looking forward to getting him back on track. He runs well fresh and he always tries. Hopefully, we get a little racing luck with him.”

Sadler’s Joy, set to make his 37th career start, has won graded stakes in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and he crossed the wire first in the 2020 Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga before being disqualified and placed fourth for interference.

Albertrani was set to run Sadler’s Joy back in the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup going two miles on June 4. Inclement weather forced him to skip that contest but a start in the inaugural running of the Grand Couturier could set up a return engagement during the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga that commences July 15 and runs through Labor Day, September 6.

Sadler’s Joy drew post 3 in the 10-horse field on Monday and is listed at 5-1 on the morning line with Jose Ortiz set to ride.

“He does well fresh. I was looking forward to running him in the Belmont Gold Cup with the two miles, but the rains came and we already know he doesn’t like soft turf, so we didn’t want to try him there,” Albertrani said. “Hopefully, he does well there and we can look forward to Saratoga with him.”

Cross Country Pick 5 tallies total pool of $112K; pays $373

Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5 featuring action from Belmont, Woodbine and Delaware Park paid $373.25 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager. The total pool was $112,680.

Woodbine started the sequence, as the favorite Belichick bested Tecumseh’s War by a head to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance tilt over the all-weather track in Race 7. Trained by Josie Carroll and ridden by Kazushi Kimura, Belichick returned $3.30 on a $2 win bet, completing the course in 1:44.40.

Belmont hosted the second leg, with Wolfie’s Dynaghost going gate-to-wire to win an allowance optional claiming race going 1 1/16 miles in Race 8. Moved off the turf to the main track, the race saw the Tom Albertrani trained Wolfie’s Dynaghost, a half-brother to stablemate Sadler’s Joy, hit the wire in 1:43.17 paying $10.80. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. was in the irons.

Delaware Park hosted the first stakes of the wager as heavy favorite Crazy Beautiful won the Grade 3, $300,000 Delaware Oaks for sophomore fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the main track in Race 8. The Ken McPeek trainee, ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, cruised to a six-length win in a final time of 1:46.33. Crazy Beautiful returned $2.60.

Belmont also got in on the stakes action, as Truth Hurts topped a pared-down four-horse field in the $100,000 Perfect Sting for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up in Race 9. Originally scheduled for one mile on the turf, the contest was moved to the main track due to heavy rain. Truth Hurts, entered by trainer and co-owner Chad Summers for the main track only, capitalized on the opportunity winning by 5 3/4 lengths over Piedi Bianchi in a final time of 1:37.48. With Luis Saez picking up the mount, Truth Hurts won her first race of her 4-year-old campaign, paying $18.

Advocating edged Tappitty Tappitty by a neck in the finale a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance optional claimer, in Race 9 at Woodbine to conclude the wager. Trained by Michael Stidham and ridden by Gary Boulanger, Advocating hit the wire in 1:44.69 and paid $8.30.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit

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