George Hall and SportsBLX Thoroughbreds Corp.'s Max Player (Honor Code) will contest the Oct. 3 GI Preakness S. at Pimlico.
“I'm very excited because I haven't been in the Preakness yet,” said Hall, who won the 2011 Belmont with 24-1 shot Ruler On Ice. “After the Kentucky Derby, he looked like he wanted to keep running. Steve watched him closely, and he was in great shape. He's galloped well. He's breezed well. We felt the horse was at the peak of his game and is ready to run.”
Winner of the GIII Withers S. for Linda Rice in February, Max Player finished third in the June 20 GI Belmont S before filling the same position in the GI Travers S. Aug. 8. Transferred to Steve Asmussen, he was fifth in his latest start in the Sept. 5 GI Kentucky Derby. Asmussen previously won the Preakness with Curlin (Smart Strike) in 2007 and again in 2009 with the filly Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro).
“I really feel like we will be competitive,” said Hall. “If you look at the Belmont S., where we were third, he didn't have such a great trip. We got really caught behind a lot of horses and had to move around a lot and still wound up being third because he came on so strong at the end. In the Travers, he again came on strong to be third. It's no shame to lose to Tiz the Law, as everybody knows. We feel like he's a really good horse. When we started to look at the Preakness, I think the view is that he's in perfectly good health. He's in good shape, and he needs to develop. Reviewing the Kentucky Derby, he really came out of the gate slow [from post 1] and was far behind in the first jump. If we can get a little better trip out of the gate, maybe get a better post position and not fall so far behind and give him so much work to do at the end, we think that we can be competitive.”
According to Hall, jockey Paco Lopez will partner the colt for the first time in the Preakness.
“Obviously, we want to stay in the race, but we have to be careful because he is going to be a closer, no matter what,” said Hall. “I'm sure Steve will give Paco the correct instructions.”
Looking farther down the road, Hall added, “He had a long layoff before the Belmont, but then he's had a robust campaign since,” Hall said. “What's most important to us is that he stays healthy and has a good 4-year-old and, hopefully, 5-year-old career. We didn't really think there was negative toward running in the Preakness that would affect his long-term prospects as a 4-year-old. We're pretty excited about what he's going to do be doing in the future, too.”
Hall bred Max Player through his K & G Stables, named for his children Katherine and George, with the colt raised on his Annestes Farm in Versailles, Ky. Hall owns 86% of Max Player, with SportBLX Thoroughbreds owning the other 14%. Co-founded by Hall and Joe De Perio, SportBLX Thoroughbreds offers micro-shares in racehorses. More micro-shares in Max Player, which will come out of his majority interest, likely will be available for purchase next week, Hall said.
Asmussen will also run Monmouth Park's Pegasus S. winner Pneumatic (Uncle Mo) in the Preakness. Joe Bravo will have the mount.