Happy Saver ecstatically undefeated upending elders for Jockey Club Gold Cup, entry to Breeders’ Cup

October 10, 2020

ELMONT, N.Y. – Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver continued to handle every challenge thrown his direction, with the sophomore keeping his undefeated record intact by besting an accomplished field of older horses to win Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

The 102nd running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, one of five graded stakes and four Grade 1s on Saturday’s 11-race Belmont card, garnered Happy Saver an all fees-paid berth to the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland.

Happy Saver, the winner of the Federico Tesio last out in his stakes debut on September 7 at Laurel Park, followed with another trip to the winner’s circle in his graded stakes bow by posting a three-quarters of a length victory over Mystic Guide. That effort gave trainer Todd Pletcher his first career Jockey Club Gold Cup score after coming tantalizingly close with seven runner-up finishes with his 23 previous starters, including last year when Vino Rosso crossed the wire first but was disqualified and placed second behind Code of Honor for causing interference in the stretch.

“Not only had we not won it, we’d suffered some really close defeats and then throw in a disqualification [last year with Vino Rosso] on top of that and it’s been a frustrating one over the years,” Pletcher said. “This one was fun. It’s one of the races that has been hard on us. We’ve had some tough losses and it was very fulfilling to win it today.”

Breaking from the inside post under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Happy Saver tracked along the rail in third position inside of Mystic Guide as pacesetter and 3-5 favorite Tacitus led the five-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.93 seconds and the half in 49.68 on the fast main track.

Tacitus, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, continued his bid for his first career Grade 1 win, maintaining the edge out of the final turn. But Happy Saver challenged from the rail in the stretch, overtaking Tacitus to his immediate outside with Mystic Guide, under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, charging from the far outside.

Tacitus, in between horses, dropped back slightly, with the two challengers remaining before Happy Saver pulled away from Mystic Guide in the final furlong to complete the 1 1/4-mile course in 2:02.09 over Big Sandy.

“He has a big heart, like I told Todd in the paddock. He’s a fighter,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “Every time he has a horse in front of him and when you ask him to go, he passes the horse and then he puts his ears up. He still had something after he went by Johnny’s horse.

“It was emotional,” he added. “I wanted to win it so bad. Last year, I got DQ’d and that was for Todd, too. He’s a cool horse, a special horse. I rode him first time out and we knew he was a nice horse. Todd has always liked him.”

A debut winner on June 20 – Belmont Stakes Day – Happy Saver followed with a nine-furlong allowance win against older horses on July 26 at Saratoga Race Course.

Off as the 2-1 second choice Saturday, Happy Saver returned $6.70 on a $2 win bet and more than doubled his career earnings to $272,500. The 3-year-old Super Saver colt will now have the option to face some of the best dirt horses in the world in the highlight of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships next month in Kentucky. Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby for Pletcher.

“Watching the race, I thought he was a little uncomfortable inside there,” Pletcher said. “He was in a tricky spot. Johnny [Velazquez, aboard Mystic Guide] had first run on him and was able to keep him in there. To his credit, that was a pretty game performance to come up the inside there in his fourth start and first time against older horses going a mile and a quarter. To do that after breaking his maiden on June 20th is hard to do.

“I was very proud of the horse and his performance,” Pletcher contnued. “I’m happy for the connections, the Wertheimers have been loyal supporters for many years and I’m appreciative of that. It’s great to get a Grade 1 win for them. He’s by a Derby winner we trained, so it’s fun all the way around.”

The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be contested at 1 1/4 miles. The last 3-year-old to win the race was Arrogate in 2016.

“First and foremost we’ll see how he bounces out of this race,” Pletcher said. “It was a tough race and he’s still a lightly raced horse. That’s part of the reason we decided to come here instead of going to the Preakness. We’ll enjoy this for the moment and talk to the Wertheimers and come up with a plan. I wouldn’t say we’re definite for it, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.”

Godolphin Stable’s Mystic Guide finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Tacitus, evening his record to 2-2-2 in six career starts for trainer Mike Stidham.

“He ran good. I had him where I wanted to be, and I was holding the eventual winner down in there but eventually he got through on the rail,” Velazquez said. “If he [Happy Saver] had to come around us, we would have won the race, but he got through and that was the difference right there.”

Added Jose Ortiz, aboard Tacitus: “We knew there was no speed in the race and Bill [Mott] didn’t tie my hands. He told me if they give it to you going 49 and 50, just take it. He ran good.”

Prioritize and Name Changer completed the order of finish.

Since its inception in 1919, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been one of the most prestigious events on the racing calendar, claiming past winners as illustrious as Hall of Famers Man o’ War [1920], Hill Prince [1950], Nashua [1955-56], Sword Dancer [1959], Buckpasser [1966], Damascus [1967], Forego [1974], John Henry [1981], Easy Goer [1989], Cigar [1995], Skip Away [1996-97] and Curlin [2007-08]. The great Kelso won the Jockey Club Gold Cup a record five straight years from 1960-64. Nine Kentucky Derby winners have won the prized event, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox [1930], Whirlaway [1942], Citation [1948] and Affirmed [1979].

Jockey Club Gold Cup Replay

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont Park with a 10-race card highlighted by the 130th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Futurity, a six-furlong turf sprint offering a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 6 at Keeneland. It is one of two turf stakes for juveniles on the 10-race card, with the Grade 3, $100,000 Matron for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs also on the docket. First post is 12:50 p.m.

BELMONT Entries Sunday, October 11

Press Release

Photo: Happy Saver. Credit: Susie Raisher

@jonathanstettin major bias play, thanks j man!!!! Lol

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