George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp.'s MAX PLAYER stamped himself a Grade 1 winner and a force to reckon with, as he overpowered his five rivals in Saturday's Win and You're In $1,000,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga.
It's as if the son of HONOR CODE turned a new leaf for trainer Steve Asmussen. MAX PLAYER was on a dry spell, absent from the winner's circle for over a year.
But then he woke up in the Suburban (G3) last July, stunning the field at 11-1, which included DWC Champ MYSTIC GUIDE, and now captures the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in dominating fashion. Suddenly he's the "now" horse and serious player for the 1 1/4 miles B.C. Classic.
And yet, Asmussen always knew MAX PLAYER had it in him.
"It was beautiful," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "Max [Player], 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's victory secured him an automatic berth to the 2021 Breeder's Cup Classic on November 5th at Del Mar.
Sent off at odds of $3.80-to-win, and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., MAX PLAYER was hustled hard out of the gate and secured a tracking trip in second, right off the flank of pacesetter FORZA DI ORO, who clocked opening quarters in 24.05 and 48.70. It was an easy pace, but MAX PLAYER remained glued to the leader, applying constant pressure from second.
"I was happy with him. Today, he broke good, so I was really happy with it. The trainer is doing all the work," said jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. after the race.
Turning for home, MAX PLAYER ranges up for the lead and is cut loose at the top of the stretch. Pacesetter FORZA DI ORO fights on from the rail to keep up, while HAPPY SAVER swings into action from third. But over the length of the stretch, MAX PLAYER's acceleration proved far more superior. He drew away in the final eighth of a mile, crossing under the line to win by four lengths at the end. HAPPY SAVER got up for second, FORZA DI ORO finished third. The final time for the one mile and one-quarter was 2:02.49.
MAX PLAYER paid $9.90 to win, $4.70 to place, and $2.60 to show. Bred by K&G Stables, he is by HONOR CODE out of FOOLS IN LOVE by NOT FOR LOVE. He earned his first Grade 1 win, pushed his earnings to over $1.25 million, and tied his top speed figure.