George Hall's Max Player (Honor Code) exited his victory in Saturday's GIII Withers S. at Aqueduct in fine shape and will likely make his next appearance in the Apr. 4 GII Wood Memorial.
Sent to post at odds of 5-1, Max Player was in tight and taking significant kickback into the first turn before jockey Dylan Davis angled him outside for smoother sailing. Settled wide in fifth, he grinded his way into contention through the final turn and found his best stride late to put away GII Remsen S. winner Shotski (Blame) by 3 1/4 lengths.
“He's not seasoned enough to handle the kickback yet,” trainer Linda Rice said of the dark bay colt who was making his third start Saturday. “He hasn't handled it well, but Dylan did a good job of keeping him close enough to contention and getting him outside to where he could get comfortable.”
Rice continued, “He looks good this morning. He came out of the race great and looks happy and playful. We'll head on to the Wood Memorial.”
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Mike Karty's Shotski could make his next start in the Mar. 7 GIII Gotham S. or the Feb. 29 GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S., according to trainer Jeremiah O'Dwyer.
“He came out of the race good. I'm very happy with him and we'll give him a couple of easy days before heading back to the track,” said O'Dwyer. “I spoke with Mr. Wachtel and he mentioned the Gotham and maybe the Fountain of Youth. There's a couple options in the pipeline. We'll let the dust settle and make a plan over the next couple of days.”
Also possible for the Gotham is Southern Equine Stable's Sixto (Curlin), a first-out winner at Aqueduct last Thursday.
“I think he's going to be a nice horse,” trainer Eric Guillot said of Sixto. “He's named after my number one traveling man over the years, Sixto Chavez. He's been my main man with a lot of Grade I horses. We'll see what the race looks like when the time goes and take it from there.”
Sophomore stakes action Saturday also featured the unbeaten Taraz (Into Mischief)'s win in the Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Brad Cox is keeping all options on the table for the filly, including a run at the boys on the Kentucky Derby trail.
“I thought about it last night and haven't really come up with a decision on what we're going to do yet,” Cox, who also trains last year's champion juvenile filly British Idiom (Flashback), said. “And race-wise? Same thing.”
The trainer continued, “She came back good, so far. We're just walking her, obviously, but she appeared to check out of the race in great order last night and cooled out great and looked great. Everything looks good.”