Co-owners: Please see below. The Peter Pan is 3.7~ weeks away and is 50 points to the winner. The NYRA races have had short fields post quarantine ( see the Woody Stephens and Acorn on Saturday). The Travers (100 points) is 3.2~ weeks after that. The Haskell (100 points) is 4 weeks away from today.
What do you think? Where should we go next?
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported June 21 that Dr Post has emerged from his game runner-up effort in the June 20 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) in good order and that the son of Quality Road will likely be slated for additional grade 1 races down the road.
Pletcher, a three-time winner of the Belmont, said the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) July 18 at Monmouth Park or the $1 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 8 are likely targets for the dark bay colt.
"Both of those races are in play. It just depends on how he bounces out of the race," Pletcher said at his barn Sunday morning. "We were always confident that a route of ground will not be an issue for him. He finished up well. It was a very encouraging effort."
Owned by Vinnie Viola's St. Elias Stable, Dr Post arrived at this year's first leg of the Triple Crown off a win in the April 25 Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park after breaking his maiden on the South Florida oval just one day after Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law picked up a second top-level victory in the March 28 Curlin Florida Derby (G1).
"That's a lot of progress to make in a short period of time," Pletcher said. "Hopefully, he keeps improving."
Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce Clark, Dr Post is out of the graded stakes-winning Hennessy mare Mary Delaney and was a $400,000 acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.
Earlier on the card, Pletcher won the Wonder Again Stakes (G3T) with Robert and Lawana Low's Sweet Melania off a seven-month layoff. She took the one-mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies in gate-to-wire fashion. Never off the board in seven starts, the daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) after winning the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland.
"She came out of it in good order. We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders' Cup, and things went kind of crazy for a while," Pletcher said. "We didn't know where (she) would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out, we pointed towards this."
Pletcher also debuted a potential rising star Saturday in Wertheimer and Frere's Happy Saver, who graduated at first asking by 5 1/2 lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr.
"He had been training well," Pletcher said. "We were looking forward to getting him started. I have to admit, the win was more impressive than I could have hoped for. It's always exciting when you have that. It surprised me when he showed as much as he did."
Pletcher is not in any hurry to run the talented son of Super Saver against stakes company.
"There are plenty of options, so we'll let him take us where we need to go," Pletcher said.
In the Belmont Stakes, Pletcher also saddled stakes-placed Farmington Road, who finished a distant eighth.
"We'll have to find a track that's more kind to closers," Pletcher said.
Options Open for Max Player
Trainer Linda Rice said George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds' Max Player, who rallied from second to last in the 10-horse field to finish third in the Belmont, came out of his first race in four months in good order Sunday morning.
"He came out good and looked good this morning—no problems," Rice said of the son of Honor Code .
Max Player, with Joel Rosario aboard, tracked in ninth position as Tap It to Win led the field through the opening quarter-mile in :23.11 and the half in :46.16. While Tiz the Law made a strong move out of the turn that propelled him to his 3 3/4-length victory, Max Player went seven wide from the upper stretch but kicked on impressively, besting Pneumatic by 2 1/2 lengths to finish on the board.
"He was a little further back than I hoped," Rice said. "I was hoping we'd have been a little closer early in the midpack. He had a lot to do because of that. He ran a little green into the kick-back once again. Joel had to circle pretty wide, but he was running at the end of it."
Max Player at Belmont Park/image]
Though showing some signs of inexperience, Max Player has been consistent with a record of 2-1-1 in four starts. The Kentucky-bred ran second in his debut in November at Parx Racing before ending his juvenile campaign with a maiden-breaking win at second asking in December at the same track.
In his stakes debut, he topped an eight-horse field to win the Withers Stakes (G3) by 3 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"Coming off a 4 1/2-month break, I thought it was a very creditable effort," Rice said. "You can build on this going forward. Going a mile and a quarter shouldn't be a problem as well."
Rice said she had no confirmed next steps yet for Max Player but will talk with Hall and come up with a plan. The July 16-Sept. 7 Saratoga summer meet has multiple options for 3-year-olds on the main track, including the Travers and the $150,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Sept. 5.
"We'll keep all the options open for now and sort it out when we get him back to the track in a week to 10 days," Rice said.
Rice saddled her first Belmont Stakes entrant since Supervisor finished fifth in 2003. Though the race was run at a shorter distance and without spectators, Rice said earning black type in a Triple Crown race for the first time in her career was special.
She also said Max Player showed the potential to run in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1) if things continue to go well.
"It was pretty exciting. It would have been more exciting if we had our typical crowd that could join us, but it was great and I think he ran well enough to show that he could possibly win a classic in his future," Rice said.
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