by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sept. 24 that Any Given Saturday, Octave, and Fairbanks came out of their respective starts over the weekend in good shape.
Any Given Saturday, winner of Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 22, is headed, as expected, to the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Octave, second to Bear Now as the favorite in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack Sept. 22, will run next in the Oct. 27 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Fairbanks, beaten less than a length by Brass Hat as the favorite in the Sept. 22 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs, most likely will be pointed to the Nov. 23 Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
Some observers of the Brooklyn viewed Any Given Saturday’s win as pedestrian, but Pletcher was completely satisfied with the performance and believes it will set up the 3-year-old perfectly for the Classic. Any Given Saturday, the heavy favorite in the Brooklyn, beat a mediocre field by 2 ½ lengths. The final time was 1:48.31 for 1 1/8 miles.
Any Given Saturday’s wins in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and Haskell Invitational (gr. I) this past summer were against better fields and visually more impressive.
“In a situation like that, what is a horse supposed to do?” Pletcher said of the Brooklyn effort. “It was his first start since (Aug. 5), the time was solid, and it was a steppingstone to a bigger goal. I thought it was perfect.”
Looking ahead to the weekend of Sept. 29-30, Pletcher appears to hold a strong hand. Lawyer Ron, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.24 on Belmont’s main track Sept. 24, will be the favorite in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont Sept. 30. Among the other Pletcher-trained runners expected to run at Belmont this weekend are English Channel, likely favorite in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT); and Wait a While, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 29.
Pletcher nominated Honey Ryder to both the Flower Bowl and Joe Hirsch but said it is more likely he would pass those races and run her next in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 27. Honey Ryder won the Flower Bowl last year before finishing third in the Filly and Mare Turf.