George E. Hall's MAX PLAYER relished the muddy-going and scored an upset victory over MYSTIC GUIDE and HAPPY SAVER in Saturday's $400K Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.
Sent off at odds of 12-1, and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., MAX PLAYER broke more aggressively than he normally does (credit to Rich Bieglmeier for this point), and secured the perfect stalking position in second, two lengths off of pacesetter MORETTI, who showed the way through opening fractions of 23.72 and 47.67. They raced compact through the backstretch; no more than five lengths separating the front and back markers.
"He was training really well," jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. said.
"If you saw him in the paddock, he was looking unbelievable. He always runs well on this track. He always tries hard. Today, he broke well and put me right there. I took the spot and no one wanted to go. As soon as he felt him inside, he kept on fighting until the end."
Turning for home, MAX PLAYER ranges up three-wide to challenge for the lead, while 4-5 favorite MYSTIC GUIDE shoots through the rail, and 8-5 second-favorite HAPPY SAVER circles four-wide. It was anybody's race entering the stretch. But as they kicked for home, it was MAX PLAYER finishing the strongest, dueling and edging clear of MYSTIC GUIDE in the final sixteenth of a mile.
MYSTIC GUIDE had to settle for second, HAPPY SAVER got up for third. The final time for the one mile and one-quarter was 2:01.95.
MAX PLAYER paid $25.60 to win, $6.80 to place, and $3.00 to show. He is by HONOR CODE out of FOOLS IN LOVE by NOT FOR LOVE. He notches his first victory in over 17 months, pushes his earnings to $717,500, and achieves a new top speed figure to shoe. Having won the Win and You're In Suburban Stakes (G2), MAX PLAYER joins MAXFIELD and CAFE PHAROAH as horses who have secured their 2021 Breeder's Cup Classic spots.
"He's been here since Pimlico and he has been doing really well," said Steve Asmussen assistant Toby Sheets.
"He's kind of a funny horse. He always has more, but sometimes he doesn't give it. He had a clear trip today and that helped so much. He finished well. He needed a little confidence builder and he got one today. He ran a nice race."
Source: Equibase, Paulick Report