All week, trainer Todd Pletcher hinted that Any Given Saturday could be sitting on a big race. In the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Monmouth Park Aug. 5, the dark bay 3-year-old colt showed that Pletcher was not bluffing.
Under a confident ride from Garrett Gomez, Any Given Saturday moved past pace-setting Cable Boy, then caught Hard Spun in mid-stretch and pulled away for a decisive 4 1/2-length victory, in the process putting himself right in the mix for the Breeders’ Cup Classic-Presented by Dodge (gr. I), to be held later this year in Oceanport, N.J.
Earlier in the week Pletcher, who teamed up with Gomez to take the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. III) with Roshani one race prior, said Any Given Saturday had been training beautifully and may be close to peaking. The son of Distorted Humor , who finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), had shown his ability in the July 4 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park, dominating by four lengths over very good competition.
"The way he ran today, the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth is our goal," said Pletcher. "We'll work out his schedule to get to the Breeders' Cup. Right now we're going to enjoy this one. We'll see how he comes out of it and go from there. Using Curlin and Hard Spun, the Preakness winner and the Derby second, as how you judge the 3-year-olds, he beat them convincingly today. Obviously, he's as good as any 3-year-old in this crop."
In the Haskell, the Kentucky-bred sat off the pace for much of the race while local favorite Cable Boy burned three-quarters in 1:10 3/5. When they hit the top of the lane, four horses were in contention, with Hard Spun, Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Curlin, and Any Given Saturday all waiting to make their moves. Under Mario Pino, Hard Spun moved first, briefly taking the lead at the top of the lane before Any Given Saturday kicked into another gear. Curlin, the 4-5 favorite tried to respond, but was unable to show the kick that he had in the last two Triple Crown efforts.
"I knew he was a better horse than he showed in the Derby," said Gomez. " In that race we turned for home and he just flattened out. From that time, Todd got him back going in the right direction. When I sat atop him in the Dwyer he was a different horse. He was the same today. I was very confident. It was just a matter of what kind of trip I'd get from the one hole."
The second betting choice paid $5.60, $4.00, $2.10. Hard Spun was able to nose out Curlin for second, filling out a $24.20 exacta (1-7). The trifecta (1-7-6) paid $46. Imawildandcrazyguy was a distant fourth.
Any Given Saturday, owned by WinStar Farms and Padua Stable, ran the 1 1/8-mile in 1:48.35 over a fast main track. Bred by Racehorse Management, he has now won five of nine career races and has hit the board in all but one effort.
Curlin's disappointing effort took jockey Robby Albarado by surprise.
“I had a perfect trip and when we kicked for home he gave me some run," he said. "He ran real hard and just couldn’t get past the leaders. He felt good; Steve (Asmussen) does a great job of getting this horse ready, but he just couldn’t get it done today. He may have needed a rest today, but he’ll bounce back and be fine.”