07/28/2010 2:04PM

Super Saver seeks to restore his luster in Haskell

Barbara D. Livingston
Super Saver trains at Saratoga in preparation for the Haskell at Monmouth.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There is a certain cachet that one usually associates with a Kentucky Derby winner. For Super Saver, that seemingly lasted about two weeks.

Following his 2 1/2-length victory in the Derby, Super Saver wilted in the final three furlongs of the Preakness, finishing eighth, 11 3/4 lengths behind Lookin At Lucky, who had finished sixth in the Derby. Then, Super Saver went into hiding, skipping the Belmont Stakes to prepare for the second half of the year.

Sunday, Super Saver can fire a “Remember me?” shot when he takes on Lookin At Lucky as well as Derby runner-up Ice Box, Preakness runner-up First Dude, and the up-and-coming Trappe Shot in a hot edition of the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

“He’s only had the one start since the Derby,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Super Saver for the WinStar Farm of Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner. “A lot of time has passed since he ran – out of sight, out of mind sometimes in this game. But, hopefully, we get back over there and get back on track.”

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Lookin At Lucky, offered this assessment of Super Saver. “Being he didn’t run [well] in the Preakness you lose a little bit,” Baffert said. “One little bad race you lose the polish. Coming in here fresh, I think he’ll be very tough, I think he’ll be very competitive, and is one of the ones to beat.”

There are a host of reasons why Super Saver may not get the attention a Derby winner usually receives. He got a relatively late start to his 3-year-old campaign, and suffered narrow defeats in both the Tampa Bay Derby and Arkansas Derby in March and April, respectively.

Second, he wasn’t regarded as the top 3-year-old in Pletcher’s barn. That distinction belonged to Eskendereya, whose dominant victories in the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial had many believing he was a threat to capture the Triple Crown. A leg injury diagnosed a week before the Derby ended Eskendereya’s racing career.

Third, Super Saver’s victory came in the slop and over a track at which he set a stakes record winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at 2. Super Saver was sent off the second choice in the Derby in large part because his rider was Calvin Borel, who won his third Derby in the last four years.

“The bottom line is Super Saver won the race that everybody wants to win,” Pletcher said. “They can come up with a million reasons why it happened, but it happened. On the day you needed to show up and run the big one he did. He obviously took to the racetrack; Calvin gave him a beautiful ride.”

Pletcher was always concerned that the two-week turnaround to the Preakness would be problematic for Super Saver. A colt on the smaller side, Super Saver definitely lost some weight in the Derby. And while he showed Pletcher many positive signs in the two weeks leading to the Preakness, the tank was empty in the stretch.

“At the end of the day it wasn’t enough time to fully recuperate from not only a taxing Derby, but three weeks before that he ran a big race in the Arkansas Derby,” said Pletcher, referring to a neck loss to front-running Line of David. “He put together a lot of races in a short period of time. It’s hard to keep clicking them off sometimes.”

Following the Preakness, Pletcher gave Super Saver some time off to recover from the Triple Crown. He returned to the work tab ab on June 12 and will have seven works entering the Haskell. On July 18, Super Saver worked five furlongs in 1:00.02, a move Pletcher called the best Super Saver has ever worked.

Pletcher’s 3-year-olds have historically run well in the second half of the year. Several have won Grade 1 races following the Derby, including Bluegrass Cat, who won the Haskell after finishing second in the Derby and Belmont, and Any Given Saturday, who won the Haskell as well as the Dwyer and Brooklyn after finishing eighth in the Derby. Both of those colts were owned by WinStar.

Pletcher is hoping for a strong second half from Super Saver as well.

“He’s a bigger, stronger, wider, better individual than he’s ever been really,” Pletcher said. “He’s progressed the way you’d want any horse to do over the course of the summer of his 3-year-old-year. He keeps developing. Let’s hope he continues to do that.”