In winning the 103rd Jockey Club Gold Cup, a “Win and You’re In” race for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Max Player registered his second straight graded stakes victory and assured himself a spot in the starting gate for the lucrative $6 million Classic Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Held for the first time at Saratoga, the Jockey Club Gold Cup sported a $1 million purse for the 1 ¼-mile test for 3-year-olds and up. Hustled away from the gate by jockey Ricardo Santana, Max Player settled 1 ½ lengths behind Forza Di Oro through an opening quarter in :24.05 over a fast main track. Following a half in :48.70 and three quarters in 1:13.14, Max Player loomed large to the outside of Forza Di Oro. Max Player took command past the three-sixteenths pole and kicked clear late under right-handed encouragement from Santana. Max Player hit the wire four lengths clear of runner-up Happy Saver, stopping the clock in 2:02.49.
“It was beautiful,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “Max, in the Suburban, ran that race under different circumstances on an off track. For him to do this on a fast track in the Jockey Club Gold Cup here at Saratoga is very satisfying. This is who he is, and I thought it was a dominating win.”
Owned by George E. Hall and Sport BLX Thoroughbreds, Max Player was bred in Kentucky by K & G Stables. The 4-year-old colt is by Honor Code out of the Not for Love mare Fools in Love. Max Player captured the Suburban (G2) at Belmont Park in his previous outing. That win followed unplaced efforts in the Pimlico Special (G3) and the Saudi Cup (G1).
“He likes to be where he’s going to run,” Asmussen noted of his charge who has been based at Saratoga. “Physically, he looks great. He’s matured wonderfully. He’s made a beautiful older horse, getting strong and running his best races at the right time.”
With the Breeders’ Cup Classic the target, Asmussen indicated Max Player would likely need to get acclimated to Del Mar’s surface in advance of this year’s Classic.
“I will speak with Mr. Hall, but I think the right thing to do is to go out there early and wait for the Classic,” Asmussen said.
All told, Max Player improved his record to 11-4-1-2 and the $535,000 winner’s share of the purse improved his bankroll to $1,252,500.