Aftermath: Pletcher, Rice Ponder Next Starts For Belmont’s Second- And Third-Place Finishers

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported that Dr Post emerged from his game runner-up effort in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in good order, and that the son of Quality Road could be slated for more Grade 1 action.

Pletcher, a three-time winner of the Belmont, said the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 18 at Monmouth Park or the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 at Saratoga are both 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 stakes triumph in the Unbridled at Gulfstream Park on April 25 after breaking his maiden over the South Florida oval just one day after Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law picked up a second Grade 1 victory in the Florida Derby.

“We always felt confident that a lot of ground won’t be an issue for him. It was a very encouraging effort,” Pletcher said. “Considering he broke his maiden the day after Tiz the Law won the Florida Derby, that’s a lot of progress to make in short period of time. Hopefully he keeps improving.”

Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark, Dr Post is out the graded stakes-winning Hennessy broodmare Mary Delaney and was a $400,000 acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

Pletcher also debuted a potential rising star on Saturday afternoon in Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver, who graduated at first asking by 5 ½ 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.”

The winning effort garnered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

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 and said that the track was tough to make up ground on Saturday.

“We’ll have to find a track that’s more kind to closers,” Pletcher said.


Third-Place Finisher Max Player Gains Valuable Experience

George E. Hall’s Max Player rallied from second-last in the 10-horse field to finish third in the Belmont. Trainer Linda Rice said the Honor Code colt came out of his first race in four months in good order on Sunday morning.

“He came out good and looked good this morning; no problems,” Rice said.

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 seconds an the half in 46.16. While Tiz the Law made a strong move out of the turn that propelled him to his 3 ¾-length victory, Max Player went seven-wide from the upper stretch but kicked on impressively, besting Pneumatic by 2 ½ 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.”

Though showing some signs of inexperience, Max Player has been consistent, with a career record of 2-1-1 in four starts. The Kentucky bred ran second in his debut in November at Parx 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 Grade 3 Withers by 3 ¼ lengths on February 1 at Aqueduct, registering an 86 Beyer for his victory in the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Making his first start off the layoff, Max Player earned a personal-best 92 Beyer for his effort in the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes.

“Coming off a 4 ½-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 Saratoga summer meet runs Thursday, July 16, through Monday, September 7, and includes multiple options for 3-year-olds on the main track, led by the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers at 1 ¼ miles on August 8 and also including the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 miles on September 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 in 17 years, when Supervisor finished fifth in 2003. Already just one of 10 women to train a Belmont Stakes runner, Rice had the second-best finisher from that group, with only the Dianne Carpenter-trained Kingpost coming closer when second to Risen Star in 1988.

Despite being run at a shorter distance and without spectators, Rice said earning the black type in a Triple Crown race for the first time in her career was special. He also said Max Player showed the potential to possibly run in the Kentucky Derby on September 5 at Churchill and the Preakness on October 3 at Pimlico 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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