Max Player Preps for Belmont S.

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Max PlayerSarah Andrew

GIII Wither S. hero Max Player (Honor Code) breezed six furlongs in 1:13.87 (1/2) Friday morning on the Belmont training track in preparation for the June 20 GI Belmont S.

“He had a nice workout today. He went six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 on the training track and did it easily,” said trainer Linda Rice. “We were happy with it. We’ll give him two more workouts before the Belmont.”

A second-out graduate at Parx in December, the George Hall homebred came running late to take the nine-furlong Withers in February and was being pointed at the GII Wood Memorial S. before racing in New York was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rice was considering Saturday’s GIII Matt Winn S. for the dark bay colt prior to NYRA announcing their reopening and new stakes schedule.

“Mr. Hall and I discussed it and decided that we didn’t think we should travel our 3-year-old once we had a schedule here and things were starting back up at home,” said Rice.

Rice had been considering Max Player for the Belmont at its original distance of 1 1/2 miles prior to the pandemic shifting the entire racing and Triple Crown schedule. But, the conditioner is pleased with the new 1 1/8-mile distance as her charge has already won over that trip in the Withers.

“Frankly, he’s been a little green and inexperienced. Maybe the one turn will actually be good for him with less negotiating of two turns. Obviously, he’s won at two turns, but I think it will be helpful for him,” said Rice. “It’s going to be a strong race and all the best 3-year-olds in the country will be there, but it’s in our backyard and we’re going to give it a go. He’s already won at a mile and an eighth, so we’re not concerned about the distance.”

Rice also has two horses under consideration for the GI Runhappy Carter H., which was supposed to be held Apr. 4 at Aqueduct, but will now run at Belmont June 6. One of them is last term’s GIII Westchester S. victor Nicodemus (Candy Ride {Arg}), who was last seen finishing a close second in Jan. 18 GIII Toboggan S. He is also under consideration for this year’s Westchester, which will be run June 6 at 1 1/16 miles instead of a mile as it was last term, and the First Defence S. on turf June 7.

“He’s doing very well. The Westchester was a flat mile last year–in the mud–and that worked out well for us,” said Rice. “We’ll nominate to the Carter, Westchester and First Defence and figure out what looks like the best opportunity. The best distance for him is probably the Carter, but it’s going to be a very strong race.”

Also a possibility for the Carter, as well as the June 27 GII True North S., is Wicked Trick (Hat Trick {Jpn}), who won four straight for Rice after she haltered him for $16,000 at Saratoga in August. The one-eyed gelding suffered his first loss last time in the Mar. 7 Stymie S.

“He’s doing well. We’ve nominated him to the Carter and True North and we’ll give both of those some consideration,” said Rice.

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