Max Player On Top of His Game In Final Work For Belmont Stakes

If Max Player improves as much in the afternoon as he has in the morning, he just might have a chance to pull an upset in next Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Stakes.

For the second time in 10 days, Max Player put in a terrific workout over the Belmont Park main track, this time going six furlongs in 1:12.25 Saturday morning under exercise rider Oscar Gomez.

Max Player was one of three Belmont contenders to work on a splendid late spring morning in New York. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s pair of Dr Post and Farmington Road went a half-mile together in 48.87 seconds.

Max Player was the first horse to breeze following the 8:45 a.m. renovation break. He went from the half-mile pole to a furlong past the wire in 59.61 seconds and then went out six furlongs in 1:12.25 and seven furlongs in 1:25.17. On June 3, Max Player worked five furlongs in 1:00.85 with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:12.38.

“He’s really learned to finish when you ask him,” trainer Linda Rice said. “He’s running along nice and easy then Oscar asked him a little bit at the sixteenth pole which was the plan to let him finish a little bit. I thought he actually looked better today than he did 10 days ago.”

Rice said Max Player is a totally different workhorse than he was just a few months ago.

“You couldn’t get him to breeze alone, had to work with company,” Rice said. “Last September, October, he was breezing five-eighths in 1:03-and-four. He’s changed a lot. He’s figured it out. Now we breeze him alone, you ask him, he responds.”

Max Player, a son of Honor Code owned by George Hall, has won two of three starts. He has not run since winning the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 1.

Shortly after Max Player finished his breeze, Dr Post and Farmington Road went a half-mile together. Dr Post, under Irad Ortiz Jr., started about a half-length off of Farmington Road, who was ridden by Javier Castellano.

The pair, both progeny of Quality Road, went their opening quarter in 25.13 seconds and got their last quarter in 23.74. They galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.02 and six furlongs in 1:13.09.

“I thought it was very good,” Pletcher said. “They pretty much did most of their major training in Florida, just looking for a maintenance half. They both did it easily, galloped out fast but did it very much in hand so I was pleased.”

Dr Post is coming off a victory in the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream on April 25. Farmington Road is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Nadal in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on May 2.

As of Saturday, there were 10 horses under consideration for the Belmont led by two-time Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law, who was expected to have his final Belmont workout Sunday morning.

Others expected for the Belmont include Sole Volante, Tap It to Win, Basin, and Jungle Runner. Possible, though not confirmed, are Modernist and Pneumatic.

This article was written by David Grening and was originally published in the DRF June 13.