Trainer Linda Rice maintains a bustling barn of 55 horses on the
Belmont backstretch and has had a number of stable stars on the work tab over
the last week, including Grade 3 Withers champ Max Player.
Owned by George E. Hall, Max Player was targeting the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) slated for April 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The dark bay son of Honor Code worked seven furlongs in 1:27.20 on March 18 on the Belmont training track.
"He worked really well," said Rice. "We had planned on shooting towards the Wood Memorial, and he had been training really nicely into that race."
Last Thursday's announcement that the New York Racing Association suspended live racing at Aqueduct indefinitely puts the Wood Memorial into question.
The Wood Memorial offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers. Rice said the recent announcement moving the 2020 Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs could work in Max Player's favor.
"Frankly, I think it might help us," said Rice. "It will give him more time to mature. We didn't get him started until December of his 2-year-old year, so I really think that's going to work in our favor."
Max Player graduated impressively on Dec. 17 at second asking in a Parx maiden tilt contested on a sloppy track. The talented colt demonstrated an impressive turn of foot in the nine-furlong Withers to run down G2 Remsen-winner Shotski for a 3 1/4-length score.
Chris Mountoukis' Montauk Traffic captured the Jimmy Winkfield in February at Aqueduct ahead of a rallying fourth in the Gotham (G3) on March 7. Rice said the Cross Traffic grey has come out of the Gotham in good order.
"We were a smidgen disappointed with the Gotham, but he was running on at the end of it. He's still very green and lightly raced," said Rice.
Rice said she was targeting the $250,000 Bay Shore (G3) with Montauk Traffic, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores slated for April 4 at Aqueduct.
"The plan was to put blinkers on him and point him towards the Bay Shore, which at this point I'm not sure where that puts us," said Rice. "We'll take it one day at a time, but he's doing very well."
Everything's Cricket Racing and Lawrence Goichman's graded-stakes winner Nicodemus is on hiatus after his rallying second behind Mind Control in the Grade 3 Toboggan. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride made the grade in May in the Westchester (G3) at Belmont.
"The Toboggan really was a heart breaker," said Rice of the nose defeat. "We had to give him some time after the race, and he's actually on the farm getting a little bit of rest. Hopefully, he'll be back for a summer-fall campaign."