Haskell, Travers stakes 'in play' for Belmont runner-up Dr Post

Haskell, Travers stakes 'in play' for Belmont runner-up Dr Post
Photo: Ryan Thompson/Gulfstream Park

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported that Dr Post emerged from his game runner-up effort in Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in good order and that the son of Quality Road could be slated for more Grade 1 action.

Pletcher, a three-time winner of the Belmont, said the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 18 at Monmouth Park or the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on Aug. 8 at Saratoga are both likely targets for the dark bay colt.

"Both of those races are in play. It just depends on how he bounces out of the race," Pletcher said at his barn Sunday morning. "We were always confident that a route of ground will not be an issue for him. He finished up well. It was a very encouraging effort.”

Owned by Vinnie Viola's St. Elias Stable, Dr Post arrived at this year's first leg of the Triple Crown off a stakes triumph in the Unbridled at Gulfstream Park on April 25 after breaking his maiden over the South Florida oval just one day after Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law picked up a second Grade 1 victory in the Florida Derby.

"We always felt confident that a lot of ground won't be an issue for him. It was a very encouraging effort," Pletcher said. "Considering he broke his maiden the day after Tiz the Law won the Florida Derby, that's a lot of progress to make in short period of time. Hopefully he keeps improving.”

Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark, Dr Post is out the graded stakes-winning Hennessy broodmare Mary Delaney and was a $400,000 acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

Earlier on the card, Pletcher won the Grade 3 Wonder Again with Robert and Lawana Low's Sweet Melania, who came off a seventh-month layoff to win the one-mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies in gate-to-wire fashion.

Never off the board in seven career starts, the daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was third in last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf after winning the Grade 2 Jessamine on Oct. 9 at Keeneland.

"She came out of it in good order. We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders' Cup and things went kind of crazy for a while," Pletcher said. "We didn't know where would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out we pointed towards this.”

Pletcher also debuted a potential rising star on Saturday afternoon in Wertheimer and Frere's Happy Saver, who graduated at first asking by 5 1/2 lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr.

"He had been training well," Pletcher said. "We were looking forward to getting him started. I have to admit, the win was more impressive than I could have hoped for. It's always exciting when you have that. It surprised me when he showed as much as he did.”

The winning effort garnered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

Pletcher is not in any hurry to run the talented son of Super Saver against stakes company.

"There are plenty of options, so we'll let him take us where we need to go," Pletcher said.

In the Belmont Stakes, Pletcher also saddled stakes-placed Farmington Road who finished a distant eighth, and the trainer said the track was tough to make up ground on Saturday.

"We'll have to find a track that's more kind to closers," Pletcher said.

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