Max Player Captures the Withers

Max Player went from maiden winner to graded winner by outstaying his competition in Saturday’s GIII Withers S. His victory was both the first black-type and graded for sire Honor Code (A.P. Indy), whose Lane’s End barn mate Tonalist was also represented by his first graded winner Saturday in the form of GIII Forward Gal S. romper Tonalist’s Shape. Awkward early but flying home late when second on debut going a mile at Parx Nov. 12, Max Player broke through in the slop by 4 1/4 lengths back in Bensalem Dec. 17, and was flattered when three of the foes behind him that day came back to grab their diplomas.

Climbing into the kickback a bit while third last around the first bend, Max Player advanced out wide down the backside behind splits of :23.96 and :49.16. Seemingly ridden busily while losing ground heading for home, he started to find his best stride near the quarter pole and was one of many still in with a chance at that point. GII Remsen S. winner Shotski boxed on up front, but Max Player continued to grind it out down the center of the track and struck the front in the final sixteenth before widening his advantage to a convincing margin.

“It was a good thing I watched his replays coming into today,” said winning rider Dylan Davis. “He doesn’t like too much kickback. He broke well for me today and right when the first kickback came to him into the first turn, he immediately got distracted. I got him back outside and he got on pace and started running well. Going into the second turn, he was traveling well and I had to get into him early because he started getting a little green. Once he got to the stretch he was all business.

Conditioner Linda Rice added, “He’s becoming more professional all the time in his morning workouts. Anyone that watched his two races at Parx could see he ran pretty green…
He got pinched out a little bit into the first turn and Dylan [Davis] did a nice job of getting him back into the race and into the clear. He had a bit of a wide trip, but it was a great ride by Dylan. He’s shown us in the morning that he’s had a lot of run at the end of his workouts.”

Of what could be next for the colt, Rice said, “I would think the [Apr. 4 GII] Wood Memorial would be the right spot. I don’t want to shorten him up to one-turn in the [Mar. 7 Gotham [March 7 at the Big A]. We’ll point towards the Wood and whether we do something in between, George [owner George Hall] and I will figure that out.”

Originally published in the Feb. 2 edition of the TDN.

Photo credit Elsa Loreiul/Coglianese.