Happy Saver looks to bounce back in the Jockey Club Gold Cup


SARATOGA SPRINGS – It’s been a busy summer for coach Todd Pletcher.

First up, the good: The 54-year-old received the top thoroughbred racing honor when he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on August 6. Her bubbly 3 year old filly Malathaat won Grade I Alabama. Three days before the end of the Saratoga meeting, he is in second place in the training standings.

Now the not so good: Malathaat arrived at Saratoga undefeated after five starts, then got angry in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks. Halfway through the competition, Pletcher tested positive for COVID.

Saratoga’s wild ride is coming to an end for Pletcher and anyone who spends most of July, all of August, and a bit of September in the town of Spa.

Pletcher still has big horses to roll out of his Saratoga barn before shutting it down for the season. One of them is the undefeated Wit who competes in Grade I Hopeful on closing day. Another is Happy Saver, one of the headliners in Saturday’s $ 1 Million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup, a long-time staple of the fall meet at Belmont Park, is taking place for the first time in Saratoga with the $ 600,000 Flower Bowl on the grass. This race will also take place on Saturday.

“Overall it was a good meeting,” said Pletcher, 14-time Saratoga practice title winner, outside his barn at the Oklahoma Training Track. “As always, you have good times and bad, but overall I’m happy with how the team has performed.”

Happy Saver, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. in the 1 1/4 mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, is the second pick in the 9-5 morning row in the field of six. The 4-year-old son of the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver has made his first five starts.

Unprecedented at 2 years old, he ended his 3-year-old season with a victory in this race last year at Belmont. In this edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he beat Mystic Guide, who would go on to win the Dubai World Cup on March 27.

In Happy Saver’s last departure, he first lost when he was beaten by Max Player and Mystic Guide in the Grade II Suburban at Belmont on July 3. Max Player is the Jockey Club Gold Cup’s third 5-2 pick; Mystic Guide is on the shelf after having a bone fragment removed from his knee.

“I think (the Suburban) was a better race than what people are crediting it with,” Pletcher said. “He broke off the six post in a field of six and in the mile-and-a-quarter races at Belmont the outside post is an inconvenience. He was suspended the entire way. I thought he kept going. trying the yarn and it was only her second start to the year. “

Happy Saver quickly rose through the ranks at the age of 3. After a maiden, allowance and minor stakes victory, he embarked on Grade I competition and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

“He was able to do something that few horses do,” Pletcher said. “He has proven to be talented and now let’s see if he can take the next step.”

The favorite of the Jockey Club’s Gold Cup morning row is Forza Di Oro (8-5) coached by Bill Mott, who made his first start in 2021 a victory by taking an allowance here on July 21 of three lengths . It could have been more, but Junior jockey Alvarado took his foot off the accelerator pedal in the last sixteenth.

He’s won four of six career starts, but has seen big gaps between races. After finishing eighth in Grade II Remsen at the age of 2, he was not seen again until the following October. Then, after a victory in the Grade III Discovery last November at Aqueduct, he was out of action until his race from Saratoga last July.

“We thought he was our best 2 year old,” Mott said of Forza Di Oro in 2019. “He just had a problem that took a long time to correct, a posterior ankle that was a bit painful. But it is. working well for it. Getting to a Grade I company for the first time is probably its biggest test, but we can’t wait to give it a try and see if it belongs.

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