SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Wertheimer and Frere homebred Happy Saver, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, settled for second while trying to defend his title in Saturday’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga.
The 4-year-old Super Saver chestnut, piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr., saved ground while tracking a moderate pace from third position. Ortiz, Jr. angled the colt into the four-path for the stretch run, but the more forwardly placed Max Player was already on his way to a four-length score when Happy Saver got clear.
“There wasn’t a lot of pace and he was sort of bottled up. He was wanting to advance but didn’t really get the opportunity until it was too late. The winner was very good, and he got the jump on him,” Pletcher said. “I was happy with his performance, and he closed well, which is probably a little better suited to a race where there’s more pace and everybody spreads out a little more. He got a good trip, but it was behind the wrong pace scenario. He came back in good shape.”
Pletcher said Happy Saver will now train up to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.
Bass Racing’s 2-year-old War Front homebred Annapolis rallied from eighth to win a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden special weight by 4 1/2-lengths in Saturday’s sixth race at the Spa under Ortiz, Jr.
“I was very pleased with him. He trained well into it and delivered the type of performance we were hoping for,” Pletcher said. “The race was slow to develop, and the early fractions weren’t really fast, but I liked the way he picked it up around the turn. He finished strongly and galloped out well.”
Pletcher said Annapolis, who earned a 76 Beyer, is likely to point to the Grade 2, $200,000 Pilgrim, a 1 1/16-mile turf test on October 3 at Belmont.
“I’d say the Pilgrim is probably the most likely next target. He seemed to come out of it in good order,” Pletcher said.
The well-bred colt is out of the Pletcher-trained My Miss Sophia, who won the 2014 Grade 2 Gazelle at the Big A en route to a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. My Miss Sophia took to turf in her 4-year-old season, winning an optional-claiming event on the Belmont grass ahead of series of graded attempts that included third place finishes in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga and Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland.
Pletcher said Annapolis could try dirt later in his development.
“At this stage, he’s shown us he’s a little better on the turf, but he’s a big, strong colt,” Pletcher said. “Obviously the mare was second in the Kentucky Oaks, but sometimes these types of horses, as they mature, they get better on the dirt, but for now we’ll stay focused on the turf.”
Repole Stable’s Never Surprised set a steady pace in Saturday’s Grade 3 Saranac but settled for second after being collared in the final jumps by Public Sector. The Constitution bay entered the 1 1/16-mile event off a more than seven-month layoff from a runner-up effort in the one-mile Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy in January at Gulfstream Park.
“He ran well. He was just a little keen early,” Pletcher said. “I was proud of him for fighting on. When things got tough, he kept fighting to the wire. With the layoff and being a little bit keen, I think it compromised his chances a little bit.
“Even before the layoff, he’s been one that’s wanted to pull a bit early,” Pletcher added. “If we can talk him out of that, I think it will improve his chances of stretching out.”
Never Surprised made his first two starts in November on the Big A turf, graduating on debut sprinting six furlongs ahead of a score in the 1 1/16-mile Central Park.
Pletcher said he had initially considered the six-furlong Allied Forces on September 17 at Belmont before deciding to keep the colt at two turns. The veteran conditioner said the nine-furlong Grade 2, $400,000 Hill Prince on October 23 at Belmont would be under consideration if Never Surprised trains well.
“He did break his maiden at six and we were debating between the Allied Forces and the Saranac coming back, but we just felt like we’d give him the opportunity to keep him stretched out. We won’t rule out the Hill Prince just yet,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher will saddle a pair of strong contenders in Wit and Power Agenda in Monday’s 117th renewal of the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful, a seven-furlong sprint for juveniles.
Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable’s Wit, by 2016 Hopeful-winner Practical Joke and out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Numero d’Oro, is perfect through two starts. Wit posted a six-length maiden win sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs at Belmont in June ahead of an eight-length score in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 17.
“Wit is doing great. He’s been pointing for this since the Sanford and except for having to make some minor adjustments around the rain, everything has gone according to plan. We’re looking forward to getting him going again,” Pletcher said.
A $575,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, will exit post 6 under Ortiz, Jr. in a field of 11.
“He’s not real quick from the gate but he’s got enough tactical speed to put himself in a good position,” Pletcher said. “He’s got a really strong turn of foot. It will be up to Irad to work out a trip and time his move.”
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Power Agenda, by Nyquist and out of the Afleet Alex mare Dream Dance, prevailed by a nose in a gutsy gate-to-wire debut win sprinting six furlongs on August 14 at the Spa.
“The two of them complement each other’s style. Power Agenda is a speedier sort and I’d imagine he’d be up close,” Pletcher said. “I thought he was courageous in his debut. It looked like he was headed, and he fought back. He’s done everything right so far.”
Power Agenda, a $120,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale acquisition, will exit post 10 under Manny Franco.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Happy Saver winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on October 10, 2020. (Joe Labozzetta)