Todd Pletcher Gets Elusive JCGC Win With Happy Saver

October 11, 2020

After numerous close defeats in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup including a disqualification from victory in last year’s edition, trainer Todd Pletcher secured the elusive win Saturday when Wertheimer and Frere’s unbeaten sophomore Happy Saver rode the rail to victory in the prestigious classic-distance race.

Pletcher, who had finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup previously with Keen Ice [2017], Palace Malice [2013], Stay Thirsty [2012], Quality Road [2010], Lawyer Ron [2007] and Newfoundland [2004], saddled Vino Rosso in last year’s running, who crossed the wire first but was ultimately disqualified to second for interference with Code of Honor in the stretch run.

Pletcher said the long-awaited victory with the son of Super Saver was welcome.

“That was a race that had been alluding us for a while,” Pletcher said. “I thought we broke through last year only to be disqualified. Not only had we not won it, but we had seven seconds, a number of which were very close. It was a very rewarding win for the whole team and it was nice to do it for the Wertheimers, who have been loyal supporters of ours for a long time. He’s by Super Saver and out of a mare we trained, so it was a great win all the way around.

“He looks good,” Pletcher added. “He seemed to bounce out of everything well. He’s a little bit tired, which I would expect after running a race like that. It seems like he’s in good shape.”

Following a debut victory on June 20 at Belmont Park, Happy Saver bested older winners going two turns at Saratoga en route to a triumph in the September 7 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park, ahead of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he earned a career best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Pletcher praised his newly minted Grade 1-winner on being able to make such a swift climb up the ladder.

“What he’s been able to accomplish you don’t see very many other horses do,” Pletcher said. “He went from a seven-furlong maiden on June 20 to a mile and an eighth allowance at Saratoga, to a mile and an eighth stake at Laurel and came back to Belmont and then to win a Grade 1 going a mile and a quarter against older horses is something you don’t see very often.”

In winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event, Happy Saver earned an all-fees paid entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland, which Pletcher said is under strong consideration.

“That’s what we’re going to think about,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how he bounces out of this and let him take us there when he wants to. Speaking to the Wertheimers last night, they’re in no rush and they plan on racing him next year.”

Should Happy Saver make the trip for the Breeders’ Cup, he would seek to give Pletcher a second straight win in the Classic after winning last year’s edition at Santa Anita with Vino Rosso. Wertheimer and Frere have never won the Classic, but owned Breeders’ Cup heroes Halfbridled, who took the 2003 Juvenile Fillies for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, and international superstar Goldikova who captured three consecutive runnings of the Mile from 2008-10.

Happy Saver’s sire Super Saver gave Pletcher his first triumph in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby in 2010 after a slew of placings.

“I don’t see a lot of similarities,” Pletcher said. “The one thing I would say is that from a physical standpoint, they’re both very good-looking and well-balanced horses. Super Saver could get a little intense in the paddock and this one is more laid back.”

Other possible Breeders’ Cup contenders for Pletcher include Grade 1-winners Valiance [Distaff] and Halladay [Mile] as well as impressive maiden winner Likeable [Juvenile] and Grade 2 Bourbon winner Mutasaabeq [Juvenile Turf].

Pletcher also spoke of recent first out maiden winner Malathaat, who gave Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez his 2,000th win at Belmont Park, and said that the $100,000 Tempted on November 6 going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct could be in play for the regally-bred daughter of Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia.

“I thought she ran really well the other day,” Pletcher said. “She’s obviously bred to be a very nice filly.”

Photo Credit: Joe Labozzetta

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