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Happy Saver, a Wertheimer and Frere homebred, puts his undefeated record on the line in the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban Stakes, a 10-furlong test for 4-year-olds and up at Belmont Park on Saturday, July 3.
The 135th renewal of the Suburban, which is a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Del Mar, will be televised live on NBC as part of a show airing from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.
The Suburban will feature the one-two finishers of October's Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup won by Happy Saver by three-quarters of a length over Godolphin homebred Mystic Guide, who enters from a win in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
A rail-riding Happy Saver, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, tracked Tacitus from third position with Mystic Guide to his outside in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, contested over a fast Belmont main track.
Race 10 at Belmont Park on Saturday, July 3 - Post 5:44 PM
|Uriah St. Lewis|
|4||Mystic Guide||1-1||Luis Saez
|5||Max Player||10-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
|6||Happy Saver||6-5||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Mystic Guide moved outside of the pacesetter late in the turn as Happy Saver waited for racing room behind rivals that finally emerged when Tacitus came off the rail on the turn for home. Mystic Guide put a nose in front inside the final eighth, but Happy Saver squeezed up the rail to secure the win.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Happy Saver won four starts in his sophomore season, including the Federico Tesio in September at Laurel Park. The Super Saver chestnut launched his 4-year-old campaign on May 28 with a one-length score in an optional-claiming mile on Big Sandy.
Pletcher said Happy Saver, who worked a half-mile in 49.26 seconds Sunday on the Belmont dirt training track, has returned bigger and better as a 4-year-old.
"I think as an older horse he's a little more laid back in some of his works. He always performs well and he's really filled out and matured," said Pletcher, who won the 2017 Suburban with Keen Ice.
Pletcher said the stretch out in distance will suit Happy Saver.
"For the way he ran in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, he's proven he likes that distance and that race looks even stronger now with what Mystic Guide has done," said Pletcher.
Pletcher will also saddle Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Moretti.
A 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, Moretti is a half-brother to 2017 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile-winner Battle of Midway.
The consistent bay, who sports a record of 12-4-4-2 with purse earnings of $304,150, launched his current campaign with an even third in the Grade 2 Brooklyn presented by Northwell Health on Belmont Stakes Day.
Last June, Moretti captured the 11-furlong Flat Out over a sloppy Belmont main track by 5 1/4-lengths ahead of a distant second to Tacitus in last year's Suburban. He completed 2020 with a 1 1/2-length win in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone in August at Saratoga, a title Pletcher said Moretti will have a chance to retain on August 5.
"The further the better for him," said Pletcher. "He ran OK in here last year and this would be a nice bridge to the Birdstone to try and defend his title there."
Ortiz, Jr. retains the mount on Happy Saver from post 6, while Flavien Prat picks up the mount on Moretti from the inside post.
Mystic Guide, trained by Mike Stidham, will be making his first appearance since capturing the Dubai World Cup on March 27 at Meydan.
The Ghostzapper chestnut, out of the multiple Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Music Note, made the grade in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in September at Saratoga ahead of his runner-up effort to Suburban rival Happy Saver in the Jockey Club Gold Cup to close out his sophomore season.
Mystic Guide, who has paired with Belmont Stakes-winning rider Luis Saez for his two starts this season, opened his current campaign in impressive fashion with a six-length win in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on a sloppy track on February 27 at Oaklawn Park, garnering a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure.
"Obviously, we don't really know how much the sloppy track played into that number," said Stidham. "He came back in the Dubai World Cup and made the number look like it was real, which was good. We've given him plenty of time and he's had three months since that race to bounce back. Looking at him train and his weight and his coat, he's an absolute picture right now."
Stidham said Mystic Guide will need to improve to turn the tables on Happy Saver.
"He needs to be faster. The bottom line is that they're both very good horses," said Stidham. "I'm not taking anything for granted. I know Happy Saver has never been beaten and it won't be an easy race for us. I just hope we have the best horse."
Stidham said Saez, who will pilot Mystic Guide from post 4, could be a difference maker on Saturday.
"Luis has ridden him in both races this year and he has a tremendous amount of confidence in the horse and that will play a big part," said Stidham. "I couldn't ask to have a more talented rider on him. We have things set up for as good an effort as he's ready for."
Informative, trained by Uriah St. Lewis for his family's Trin-Brook Stables, enters from a last-to-first score in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at odds of 79-1 on June 12 at Monmouth Park.
The 4-year-old Bodemeister chestnut has racked up 25 career starts with three wins and three seconds, and picked up his first graded black type last out when besting Ny Traffic by one-length, garnering a career-best 99 Beyer.
Manny Franco has the call from post 2.
William L. Clifton, Jr.'s multiple graded stakes placed Prioritize, a 6-year-old Tizway gelding, finished a closing fifth last out in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 14 at Pimlico Race Course.
Prioritize made his first nine starts on turf, including a third in the 2018 Grade 2 Hill Prince at Belmont, before trainer Jimmy Bond switched the bay to dirt for his last seven efforts.
The versatile Prioritize ran third in the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap in September at Saratoga ahead of a fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup to close out his campaign.
Joel Rosario retains the mount from post 3.
George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds' Max Player, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is in search of his first win since capturing the Grade 3 Withers on February 1, 2020 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 4-year-old Honor Code colt ran third in both the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and Grade 1 Runhappy Travers following his Withers win for former conditioner Linda Rice.
Transferred to Asmussen for a fall campaign, Max Player finished fifth in both the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Preakness in a Triple Crown campaign schedule which was readjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Max Player opened his season with an off-the-board effort in the Group 1 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in February and ran sixth last out in the Pimlico Special.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. has the call from post 5.
The Suburban is carded as the closing race on Saturday's 10-race program. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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