George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds' Max Player continued his career-long trend of finishing in the money, earning third-place honors for the second consecutive Grade 1 with his black-type effort in Saturday's Travers Stakes.
Just like in the Belmont Stakes on June 20, Max Player stayed off the pace in the 151st running of the Travers before finishing strong to earn a placing in a race won by New York-bred Tiz the Law.
Under jockey Joel Rosario for the second consecutive start, Max Player went four wide in the upper stretch and hit the wire two lengths back of runner-up Caracaro, who was 5 1/2 lengths behind the runaway winner and 1-2 favorite.
Bred by K&G Stables in Kentucky, Max Player is 2-1-2 in five career starts for trainer Linda Rice.
"He came out of it really well," Rice said. "He's a little tired, but otherwise, he's in good shape."
Max Player earned a 99 Beyer for the effort, the best of his career and exceeding his previous high of 92 garnered in the Belmont Stakes. He has improved his speed figures in every start, beginning with a 68 in a second-place debut effort as a juvenile in November at Parx. After breaking his maiden at second asking to cap his 2-year-old year in December over a sloppy and sealed Parx main track, Max Player earned an 86 for his 3 1/4-length victory in the Withers (G3) in his stakes — and sophomore — debut in February at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"We were pleased with it," Rice said. "He's continued to improve and taken baby steps forward. So, we were pleased with that. He's been pretty consistent and has been moving forward with gentle progress. We're happy with that. He came out of it fine and he's sleeping a lot today since he ran hard and is a bit tired. But all in all, he came out of the race well."
Max Player earned 20 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, with the Travers awarding 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers. He is ninth on the Derby leaderboard with 60 total points and $337,500 in non-restricted stakes earnings. With the Run for the Roses expected to draw its usual full field of 20, that would put Max Player in contention to give Rice her first career Derby starter should the connections decide to ship him there.
"We're certainly going to keep that option open," Rice said. "We'll give it a few days and I'll discuss it further with George and Joe De Perio [president of SportBLX] and talk about that later in the week."
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