News and STORIES

Max Players Prepares for Travers as Field Shapes Up

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Wednesday August 05, 2020
George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred’s Max Player worked five furlongs in 1:01.55 Aug. 3 on the Belmont Park dirt training track. He is preparing to run in the Aug. 8, $1 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. 

Trainer Linda Rice said the dark bay Honor Code was looking good in his preps. 

"We worked him in company head, and head with another horse and they went five-eighths in 1:01.2. It was just a maintenance breeze," said Rice. "It was just a nice comfortable breeze. I feel it was exactly what he needed. He'll ship up to Saratoga on Wednesday and train there."

In his most recent performance, he came off a more than four-month layoff on June 20 to run in the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). He completed the trifecta behind the winner Tiz the Law and second-place finisher Dr. Post. 

The colt’s Aug. 3 breeze was his fifth over the dirt training track since his run at Belmont.

"He trained very well into the Belmont and had improved dramatically up to June when the Belmont ran," said Rice. "Since then, we've been holding steady. I haven't trained him quite as aggressively because he's not coming off of a five-month layoff this time."

Max Player will not be able to breeze on the Saratoga main track before running in the Travers, but he will gallop later in the week. Rice believes he will take to the surface well.

"He shipped to Parx and ran well. He shipped to Aqueduct and won the Withers (G3) on Feb. 1 and had never trained at Aqueduct, he just shipped over from Belmont," said Rice. "I'm not concerned. He's a pretty level-headed horse, and he's easy to train in that respect."

Max Player will be joined by Joel Rosario, who is second in the Saratoga jockey standings.

First Line, Mystic Guide

Trainer Orlando Node confirmed that jockey David Cohen would be aboard maiden winner First Line in the Travers. He runs Noda Brothers with his brother Jonathan.

According to Node, the veteran rider will gallop the First Line on the Saratoga main track on Aug. 4. 

"I think he'll give us a good, honest ride," said Noda. "He'll get on him tomorrow and gallop on the main track and get a feel for the horse.
"It doesn't happen very often to have a horse peak at the right time," said Noda. "But everything happens for a reason, and I think he'll outrun his odds."

The First Samurai gelding received an 84 Beyer Speed Figure when he took his fourth start July 29 in a 1 1/8-mile maiden test at the Spa.
According to trainer Mike Stidhma, Godolphin homebred Mystic Guide will pass on the Travers and instead aim for the Sept. 5 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). The event is a 1 1/8-mile test for sophomores. 

Mystic Guide finished third last time out in the Peter Pan (G3) on opening day at Saratoga. 

"We're not going to run in the Travers, we're going to hold off and probably run in the Jim Dandy," said Stidham. "We've been conservative with the horse up to this point, and we'll stay conservative for now."

The race also termed the “Mid-Summer Derby,” is set to be contested at 1 1/4 miles. It is one of three grade 1 races that will take place on Aug. 8, along with the $300,000 Ballerina (G1). It is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, with the winner being awarded a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 7 at Keeneland. 

The event for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up will cover seven furlongs, and the $300,000 Longines Test is restricted to 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs.