By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Max Player will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic after his four-length victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday.
The time-honoured G1 event was run at Saratoga for the first time, having been moved forward a month and switched from its traditional home at Belmont Park.
As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, the £1m contest is a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Classic at Del Mar on November 6 – and Max Player is now generally only an 8-1 chance for America’s richest race after a comfortable victory from the 2020 Jockey Club winner Happy Saver.
“Max Player is better than he’s ever been and physically he’s developed into this,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, speaking to the NYRA media team.
“There’s more of him,” added Asmussen, who earlier this summer became the winningmost trainer of all time in the US.
“He’s a horse that’s continued to grow, fill out and mature. There’s a lot more of Max Player as a four-year-old than there was as a three-year-old. He’s bigger and stronger.”
Max Player had already earned a fees-paid berth in the $6m Classic by virtue of his victory ove Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide in the Suburban in July.
“His next race will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” said Asmussen, who won the race with Curlin (2007) and Gun Runner, who scored at this year’s venue Del Mar ten years later.
“We just want to acclimate them to West Coast time,” explained Asmussen. “For previous Breeders’ Cups in California, we like to get out there and be on Pacific Coast time and I think we’ve gotten solid runs doing that, so we’re planning on doing the same this time.
“Last time the Breeders’ Cup was at Del Mar, we had Gun Runner. He went out and trained at Santa Anita before going to Del Mar.”
Jockey Club runner-up Happy Saver is also unlikely to run again before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when Brad Cox’s pair of Knicks Go and Essential Quality are vying for favouritism.
Breeders’ Cup Classic betting (William Hill): 4 Essential Quality, Knicks Go, 8 Life Is Good, Max Player, 10 Mishriff, 12 Hot Rod Charlie, 16 Happy Saver, Maxfield, Medina Spirit, 20 bar.
• Visit the NYRA Saratoga website