The Preakness (G1) is a prize conspicuously absent from trainer Todd Pletcher’s list of achievements, but the likely future Hall of Famer now has a late-blooming contender for that delayed fixture in Happy Saver, who earned an automatic bid to the Oct. 3 classic at Pimlico when taking the $100,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel on Monday.
A homebred racing for Wertheimer & Frere, Happy Saver had previously dominated two overnight fields in New York, winning a 7-furlong maiden at Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths and a 9-furlong allowance at Saratoga. He was made 1-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Tesio under Trevor McCarthy.
Rating 2 1/2 lengths behind the lone speed, Monday Morning Qb, through the opening half-mile, Happy Saver was urged into contention around the far turn. Closing in on the long-time leader in upper stretch, Happy Saver put his head in front at the eighth pole and opened up more near the end while also becoming slightly distracted.
“He saw these tire tractors laying here in the middle of the track, and seeing them he kind of put his ears up, pulled himself up a little bit,” McCarthy said. “A couple yells to him and he did everything I asked him to do. Especially when (Monday Morning Qb) came galloping next to him, he re-broke. He was pretty impressive.”
Happy Saver won by 1 1/2 lengths and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.15 and paid $2.40. Monday Morning Qb, making his first start since finishing fourth in the Feb. 1 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct, finished nine lengths clear of Big City Bob.
A son of Super Saver, the Pletcher-trained winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1), Happy Saver has now earned $135,900. Bred in Kentucky, Happy Saver was produced by the stakes-placed Happy Week, by Distorted Humor. His third dam was the influential Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise.
Weber City Miss Stakes
Also qualifying for a Preakness Day stakes Monday was another unbeaten 3-year-old, Grand Cru Classe, who gamely held on to win the $100,000 Weber City Miss Stakes after leading from the start under Julien Pimentel.
Trained by Bill Mott, the daughter of Bernardini earned an automatic bid to the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), which will be run over 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 3. Owned by Speedway Stable, Grand Cru Classe won by a neck from Market Rumor as an even-money favorite in a time of 1:44.02 for 1 1/16 miles. Grade 1 veteran Perfect Alibi ran third.
Grand Cru Classe has now earned $120,900. She previously won on debut at Gulfstream by 8 3/4 lengths going 6 furlongs, and a Belmont allowance by four lengths over one mile.
All Along Stakes
Earlier in the stakes-laden Labor Day card, Nay Lady Nay cut the corner at the top of the lane and drove home an easy winner of the $100,000 All Along Stakes for fillies and mares.
An even-money favorite in a field reduced to four by scratches, Nay Lady Nay returned $4 after covering 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.88 under Victor Carrasco.
Owned by First Row Partners and Hidden Brook Farm, the Chad Brown-trained 4-year-old daughter of No Nay Never was winning her fourth stakes in five such attempts. The Irish-bred has two graded wins to her credit, the 2019 Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill and the 2020 Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth in her previous start.