Freshened by trainer Todd Pletcher since an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Any Given Saturday repelled his rival Nobiz Like Shobiz at the top of the stretch and rolled to a convincing victory in the $147,000 Dwyer (gr. II) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds Wednesday at Belmont Park.
With Garrett Gomez aboard for the four-length triumph, Any Given Saturday returned to the winner's circle for the first time since taking the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 17.
The Distorted Humor colt turned the tables on 13-10 favorite Nobiz Like Shobiz, who defeated Any Given Saturday in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 7. Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Sightseeing, second in the Wood, finished third Saturday.
In winning his first graded stakes event, the $1.1 million yearling Any Given Saturday carried 121 pounds, two less than the top-weighted Nobiz Like Shobiz. The final time for the one-turn 1 1/16-mile event was a solid 1:40 3/5.
More importantly, Any Given Saturday established himself as an important player in the 3-year-old picture for the remainder of the year.
“It was a huge win,” said Pletcher. “He came out of the Kentucky Derby with a pretty good foot bruise. It took us a while to get him over that. Then, it was a matter of picking out a game plan and put him in the best position going forward.
“We felt like the freshening from the Derby would be good for him, and obviously, it was. It’s nice to have a horse that’s tactical as this. When there is not a lot of pace, he can be right there. When there is a lot of pace, he can settle. That’s what makes a horse like this a little extra dangerous. He can dictate the race and he doesn’t need it to set up any particular way.”
Gomez, who rode Any Given Saturday for the first time in the Derby and found lots of traffic while racing wide, gave the dark bay colt a perfect trip Saturday. Any Given Saturday broke sharply and settled in second on the outside of pacesetter Believeinmenow, who took the field of five along in sensible splits of :23 4/5, :47 and 1:10 4/5.
Any Given Saturday swept to the lead on the turn but Nobiz Like Shobiz, on the extreme outside under Cornelio Velasquez, challenged in upper stretch. Any Given Saturday kicked away when roused and drove to the wire well in charge.
“He’s a very useful horse,” Gomez said. “He was there for me every step of the way. Today, he was like driving a car. I didn’t expect to be in front of Nobiz Like Shobiz. When they took back, it left me in the driver’s seat. I stayed out for a long time, wanting to make sure no one got to my outside.
"As the race progressed, I was liking my spot. The way my colt was traveling, it was unbelievable. We picked the tempo up at the half-mile pole. When we turned for home I said, `Let me lay him down.’”
Any Given Saturday will perhaps be pointed toward Saratoga’s $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) at nine furlongs on July 29, or Monmouth Park’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at nine furlongs on Aug. 5.
He’s just one more weapon in Pletcher’s arsenal, one that also includes Belmont Stakes-winning filly Rags to Riches.
“It’s hard to beat Pletcher; wherever you go, it’s hard to beat him,” said Barclay Tagg, trainer of Nobiz Like Shobiz. “No matter where you are, what race you’re in or who the horses are, it’s almost impossible to beat him.”
Nobiz Like Shobiz, also freshened since he ran 10th in the Derby for Tagg, finished five lengths clear of Sightseeing, who bumped with Any Given Saturday when he went for an early run on the backstretch for jockey Edgar Prado. After an inside trip, Sightseeing lacked any response in the lane.
Trainer Shug McGaughey has been pointing for the Jim Dandy and believes the two turns and added distance will make a difference for Sightseeing.
“I don’t know if Edgar moved him early or not,” McGaughey said. “He had to check him once he got up to the leaders, and then he was kind of even from there. They ran fast. Always the two turns is what we’ve been pointing for. Backing up to a mile and a sixteenth today, I don’t think, is his ballgame. But I needed to run him again, because he needs to learn to run. ”
Believeinmenow and Helsinki trailed in a field reduced in size by the scratch of First Defence.
Second in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in his final start as a 2-year-old, Any Given Saturday became a major player on the Derby trail following his win in the Sam F. Davis followed by his game second -- a nose behind eventual Derby winner Street Sense -- in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 17.
Any Given Saturday lost a little luster when Nobiz Like Shobiz stunned him by nearly four lengths in the Wood, and he could not keep pace with Street Sense in the 10-furlong Derby after moving into contention with a quarter-mile left.
Any Given Saturday improved his career mark to 4-2-1 in eight starts while earning $90,000 for owners WinStar Farm LLC and Padua Stables. His earnings stand at $389,213.
Racehorse Management LLC bred Any Given Saturday, who is out of the A.P. Indy mare Weekend in Indy, in Kentucky. He was sold for $1.1 million at Keeneland in 2005.
He paid $5.30, $3.10, and $2.20.
Nobilz Like Shobiz, who raced with blinkers off Saturday, returned $2.70 and $2.10.
Sightseeing was $2.10 to show.