Moved to Saratoga for the first time, the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) drew a field of six including defending champion Happy Saver.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race with the winner stamping a ticket to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Happy Saver won the race last year at Belmont Park as a three-year-old and is seeking to join an illustrious group that has won the race more than once including the great Kelso who won the race a record five times from 1960 to 1964.
Nine Kentucky Derby winners have won the race, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox , Whirlaway , Citation  and Affirmed .
Happy Saver is looking to turn the tables on Max Player, who pulled off the upset in the Suburban (G2) returning his backers $25.60.
It was the first career loss for the Todd Pletcher trained Happy Saver, who won his first five career starts.
“I don’t think he ran that badly on an off track last time,” Pletcher said. “The way the race unfolded going a mile and a quarter at Belmont and drawing the outside is never a good thing. I thought he ran well all things considered. He kept closing and it was his only his second start of the year, so hopefully he moves forward.”
Max Player Wins Suburban
Max Player came into the Suburban having lost his previous six starts. The colt was closer to the pace than usual and was able to hold off Mystic Guide by a neck with another 2 ½ lengths back to Happy Saver in third.
“It was nice to see him step up again and run to his ability,” said Asmussen’s top assistant Scott Blasi. “This is a logical spot to run him back. He’s done well up here, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The co-feature on the 12-race card is the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (G1). The winner earns a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Both races will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network at 6:00 ET.
Let’s head out to Saratoga for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 12 The Jockey Club Gold Cup G1 (6:46 ET)
4 Happy Saver 9-5
2 Max Player 5-2
5 Night Ops 5-1
1 Forza Di Oro 8-5
This colt was third in the Suburban (G2) last out and Irad just got out ridden by Santa aboard Max Player who put the winner in a better position sitting just off the pace. Our top pick stalked in fourth and was not able to finish late, beaten 2 3/4 lengths over a racing strip that was slightly favoring inside speed. Pletcher may go with a different strategy today and it would be no surprise to see this guy on the lead or at least ahead of Max Player early. He won this race last October and now looks primed for a top effort in his third start off the bench. He beat optional claimers won back off a 7 1/2-month break and it may not have been enough to have him fully cranked for his last effort which was at 1 1/4 miles. He earned a career top in this race last year but do note it was run at Belmont Park.
The Asmussen trainee earned a career top winning the Suburban last out and snapping a six race losing streak. His last win came in the Withers in February of ’20. He did run pretty well here last year in a third-place finish in the Travers (G1). He got a perfect ride and trip last out and paid a nice $25.60. He should get a similar trip here but his price is going to end up much shorter.
This five-year-old prompted the early pace and could not get to the gate to wire winner Art Collector last out in the restricted Alydar here at 1 1/8 miles. The winner came back to win the Charles Town Classic (G2) in his next outing on Aug. 27. The Cox trainee is coming off a career top and has now landed in the bottom half of the exacta in four straight starts. He looks as if he will be able to handle the added ground.
WIN: Happy Saver to win at 8-5 or better.
EXACTA: 4 / 1,2,5 and 2,4 / 2,4,5