You can add Happy Saver to a list of viable 3-year-old contenders for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) as the lightly-raced son of Super Saver won for the fourth time in many starts with a successful, rail-skimming stretch bid in Saturday’s $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park.
Off quickly but content to be rated in third behind odds-on favorite Tacitus until the top of the stretch, Happy Saver was joined by fellow sophomore Mystic Guide in attacking the long-time leader from both sides in upper stretch. Mystic Guide poked a head in front, but Happy Saver’s rally on the inside under Irad Ortiz Jr. proved too strong.
The winning margin was three parts of a length for the Wertheimer and Frere homebred, who covered 1 1/4 miles over a fast track in 2:02.09 and paid $6.70. Mystic Guide had 1 1/4 lengths on Tacitus, while Prioritize and Name Changer never factored.
This was a long-awaited first Gold Cup win for trainer Todd Pletcher, whose Vino Rosso was controversially disqualified from victory in last year’s edition.
“Not only had we not won it, we’d suffered some really close defeats and then throw in a disqualification on top of that and it’s been a frustrating one over the years,” Pletcher said. “This one was fun. It’s one of the races that has been hard on us. We’ve had some tough losses and it was very fulfilling to win it today.”
The Gold Cup was a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifier for the Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7, where Happy Saver will now presumably join classic winners Authentic and Tiz the Law. However, those two currently have deeper resumes in the race for Eclipse Award honors.
Although he has further room to grow, Happy Saver has only two stakes wins. Debuting on June 20, the same Tiz the Law won the Belmont S. (G1), Happy Saver beat maiden foes by 5 1/2 lengths going 7 furlongs, and then stretched out nicely to win a 9-furlong allowance at Saratoga a month later.
Happy Saver earned an automatic bid to the Preakness (G1) by winning the Federico Tesio S. at Laurel by 1 1/2 lengths on Sept. 7, but bypassed last week’s third leg of the Triple Crown in favor of the Gold Cup.
“When we started getting serious with his breezes, he was breezing with Dr Post and some horses we knew had talent and he was staying right with them, but I couldn’t have imagined on June 20 he’d be winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup and be 4-for-4. That’s hard to do, but it’s a tribute to his quality,” Pletcher said.
“First and foremost we’ll see how he bounces out of this race. It was a tough race and he’s still a lightly raced horse. That’s part of the reason we decided to come here instead of going to the Preakness. We’ll enjoy this for the moment and talk to the Wertheimers and come up with a plan. I wouldn’t say we’re definite for (the Breeders’ Cup), but I wouldn’t rule it out either.”
Happy Saver more than doubled his career earnings to $273,400. Bred in Kentucky, Happy Saver was produced by the stakes-placed Happy Week, by Distorted Humor. His third dam was the influential Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise.