Max Player moves to Asmussen for Derby prep

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Trainer Steve Asmussen

Kentucky Derby contender Max Player made the headlines on Tuesday as it was announced he was changing trainers just four weeks out from the ‘Run for the Roses’.

Owned by George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds; Max Player sits ninth place on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with only one qualifying race remaining; this weekend’s Pegasus Stakes.

Trained by Linda Rice, Max Player was third in both the Belmont Stakes and the Travers Stakes at the top level following a win in the Grade 3 Withers earlier this year.

He rates an improving three-year-old colt by any standards but has now made a shock departure from the Rice yard; something the trainer took to Twitter to confirm.

Max Player has been moved to the Asmussen barn in order to prepare for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. We are disappointed to see him go, but we wish George Hall and SportBLX the best of luck!” said Rice in her statement.

He had finished third in the Travers at Saratoga on Saturday last, no match for the runaway winner Tiz The Law in the Grade 1 contest. That, says owner Hall, was another indication of his progressive profile despite the defeat.

“I think Linda Rice did a great job with this horse,” Hall said in a statement. “Even though Tiz The Law beat him twice, he’s progressed every step of the way. He continues to improve and we’re hoping he will improve even more in the Kentucky Derby.”

Asmussen’s record at Churchill Downs clearly ticks plenty of boxes for the owners of Max Player, with Hall observing: “[Steve] has won a lot of races at Churchill Downs, and as far as I could tell he seemed to be the best fit. I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of advice.”

Tiz The Law was so impressive in landing the Travers over the weekend he now trades as odds-on favourite to win the Kentucky Derby, with Max Player generally around the 20/1 mark to win on September 5th.

Sport BLX Thoroughbreds, a racing syndicate that has hundreds of owners, have been considering this move for some time; according to Hall.

“All of the owners are really excited. This was always our plan to continue on the Derby trail,” he added. “As long as he qualified and was sound and fit with these horses, we wanted to run in the Kentucky Derby.”