HAPPY SAVER PUNCHES PREAKNESS TICKET IN TESIO

Happy-Saver
Happy Saver won the Federico Tesio Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Happy Saver, stepping up to stakes company for the first time, kept his perfect record intact through three starts with a popular and professional 1 ½-length victory in Monday’s $100,000 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park.

The 39th running of the 1 1/8-mile Tesio for 3-year-olds was the third of five $100,000 stakes on a special 10-race Labor Day holiday program that capped Laurel’s Preakness Prep Weekend. For the fifth straight year, the Tesio serveed as a ‘Win and In’ event to the 145th Preakness (G1) Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

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Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, watching from Saratoga where he won the training title, said the Preakness would be on the radar for Happy Saver, a chestnut son of Super Saver, who in 2010 gave Pletcher his first of two Kentucky Derby (G1) wins. Not Triple Crown nominated, Happy Saver would need to be supplemented for $25,000 to run.

“It’s hard to win any races, much less your first three and step up in distance in your second start and into a stake in your third start. It’s impressive he’s been able to do that on three different surfaces, so I’m really pleased with his progress,” Pletcher said. “He’s three-for-three and if he comes out and trains accordingly we’ll consider stepping up and taking a shot.”

Happy Saver ($2.40), out of the Distorted Humor mare Happy Week, completed the distance over a fast  main track in 1:49.15 – the fastest nine-furlong Tesio since Marciano won the 2001 edition in 1:49 when it was held at Pimlico Race Course. The Tesio was contested at 1 1/16 miles from 1981-91 and 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. It was not run in 2012.

It was the second career Tesio win for both Pletcher and jockey Trevor McCarthy. Pletcher won in 2002 with Smoked Em, while McCarthy was first with Bodhisattva in 2015.

“He really turned it on that last eighth of a mile, the last quarter. They were running,” McCarthy said. “This horse is all class. Everything you want to do, he’ll do for you. It was just a big privilege to be on him today. I have to thank Todd and his whole crew for doing such a great job.”

Winner of the Heft Stakes last December at Laurel but unraced since a fourth-place finish in the Withers (G3) Feb. 1 at Aqueduct, Monday Morning Qb broke sharply and was intent on the lead, rolling through a quarter-mile in 24.76 seconds and a half in 48.82 while Amen Corner chased along the rail and McCarthy kept Happy Saver in the clear three wide in third.

Monday Morning Qb was still there after going six furlongs in 1:13.69 when McCarthy began to move on Happy Saver and the top two gained distance from the rest of the field. Happy Saver nudged a head in front once straightened for home and was set down for the drive while Monday Morning Qb determinedly kept on to his inside.

“He really warmed up well for me today. I was really impressed with the way he warmed up. He broke really strong and those speed horses on the outside didn’t break very well. I knew [Monday Morning Qb] would break good off the layoff. I didn’t know how fit that horse would be today but I just left him alone and let my horse get in a great stride and a great rhythm,” McCarthy said. “When [Monday Morning Qb] came to him galloping out, he rebroke. He was pretty impressive.”

Monday Morning Qb was a clear second, nine lengths ahead of late-running Big City Bob, followed by Mexican Wonder Boy, Amen Corner and Letmeno, who stumbled out of the gate and trailed throughout. Plot the Dots was scratched.

Happy Saver went unraced at 2, breaking his maiden at first asking in a seven-furlong sprint June 20 at Belmont Park then stepping up to open allowance company July 26 at Saratoga to win by four lengths at 1 1/8 miles. The Tesio was his first race against straight 3-year-olds.

“I just kind of told Trevor a little bit about the horse and told him he can ride him tactically however he wanted. He won first time out going wire to wire basically seven-eighths and then he came from off the pace and got some good education his second start so I told him to just use his best judgment,” Pletcher said. “He was in the clear, stalking. That was the horse that I felt like we had to beat. The horse put up a good fight but our horse was able to keep finding a little more.”

The Tesio is named for the noted Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose hombreds Nearco and Ribot dominate Thoroughbred bloodlines around the world. Tesio died in Italy in 1954 at age 85.

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