Calvin Borel looks back to see where the rest of the field is as Super Saver crosses the wire in the Kentucky Derby (Photo courtesy Horsephotos.com).
Very rarely do you find a horse who is unbeatable at a particular track. However, during his career, Super Saver was one of those horses.
While the Maria’s Mon colt won his second career start by seven lengths at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs was obviously Super Saver’s favorite track.
He won the 2009 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by five lengths, putting him on the 2010 Kentucky Derby trail. Super Saver finished second and third, respectively, in his two 3-year-old prep races and headed to the Derby gate as the 8-to-1 second choice.
Calvin Borel, winner of the previous year’s Kentucky Derby, was on Super Saver for the race. Borel had come from the back of the pack the previous year to prevail on Mine That Bird but had a near opposite ride in 2010, never racing worse than sixth on Super Saver. Borel guided Super Saver to victory in the Derby by 2 ½ lengths to give Todd Pletcher his first win in the race as a trainer and WinStar its first Derby win with a homebred.
“[Super Saver is] basically is the embodiment of what we strive to do,” said Leanna Packard, Winstar’s Stablemates coordinator and bloodstock assistant. “We want to breed racehorses and also create stallions, so he’s the ultimate. He won the ultimate race and is a homebred, and it is really exciting and special; and it was really special for us to win with Todd Pletcher and Calvin Borel. Todd has a decent number of our racing stable and Calvin has ridden for us quite a bit so it was very, very special.”
Two weeks later, Super Saver and Borel headed to Pimlico to try and win the second jewel of the Triple Crown as the favorite. Super Saver was in second for most of the race, but when it came time to accelerate around the far turn Super Saver did not show the burst he had in the Derby and faded to eighth.
After four races in three months, Super Saver became the first Kentucky Derby winner since 2007 to skip the Belmont Stakes when he went on an extended vacation. He returned to racing at the Jersey Shore later that summer when he entered the Haskell Invitational Stakes. The race was a rematch with some familiar foes with four of the seven entrants running in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, including Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky. But once again, Super Saver couldn’t hold on after running near the front and faded to fourth, finishing just a nose behind First Dude.
A strong field turned up to take on Super Saver in the Travers Stakes and the race had an exciting finish for those tuning in for the race. Unfortunately for Super Saver, he wasn’t involved in the excitement. For the first time in his career, Super Saver raced near the back of the field, never better than eighth. He didn’t improve on that position in the stretch, instead dropping back to tenth place at the finish.
“We were able to get over and get decent position at the break. We were tracking in a good, fast spot, but just came up empty,” Pletcher said after the race.
The Travers turned into Super Saver’s final race after he was sidelined with condylar bruising. In October 2010, WinStar pulled the plug on the Derby winner’s career, retiring him to their stallion barn.
“The final decision to retire Super Saver was a difficult one that may not be popular with fans but should be very popular with our breeders,” Elliott Walden, WinStar president, CEO and racing manager, told Blood-Horse at the time. “The bone bruising that was discovered by Dr. Larry Bramlage, which limited his performance during the latter half of this year, should subside with time. However, it created a risk that he would not return to the form he showed as a 2-year-old and through the Kentucky Derby. He was a top 2-year-old and became WinStar's and Todd Pletcher's first Kentucky Derby winner. We felt like he had nothing more to prove.”
SUPER SAVER AT WINSTAR'S NOVEMBER 2010 OPEN HOUSE
Super Saver stood for $20,000 during his initial Northern Hemisphere season in 2011. After standing at WinStar during the first part of the year, Super Saver moved to Eliza Park in Australia for the Southern Hemisphere season where he stood for $16,500 Australian. Super Saver proved to be popular with breeders in both hemispheres with 147 foals born in 2012. Super Saver didn’t shuttle in 2012 but attracted almost as many mates, breeding 128 mares during the season. Super Saver’s first yearlings will be hitting the sales later this year and WinStar has high hopes for his first crop.
“We have quite a few [Super Saver yearlings] on the farm that are excellent, and we have heard quite a few reports and have gone to see some others that other breeders have and they look awesome,” Packard said. “They’re like him, they get better and better the older they get, so we are really excited to see what they look like here at the yearling sales.”
Super Saver holds a special place in the hearts of the WinStar team and he also is popular with many fans, some of which send him gifts, and breeders who are looking for a different type of pedigree.
“He’s so popular and we get birthday cards and gifts for him and he’s always one that people want to see,” Packard said. “He’s been popular with breeders as well. He definitely offers a bit of a different bloodline, being a Maria’s Mon. He’s been beneficial all the way around from our fans to breeders. He’s really kind of the total package.”
Super Saver’s pedigree may be one of the best in recent history with recognizable graded stakes winners coming from both sides. He is by Maria’s Mon, who also sired 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and looked to become an extremely successful sire. Sadly, the stallion died in fall 2007 with Super Saver coming from his second-to-last crop. From 980 foals, Maria’s Mon sired 54 stakes winners, including a champion in Wait a While.
But Super Saver’s female family holds even more power as his first four dams all have at least two graded stakes winners on their produce records with Super Saver’s graded stakes-winning second dam, Get Lucky, a full sister to champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Rhythm.
It will be at least another year before fans can watch Super Saver’s foals run on the track, but for now they can watch the Derby winner on WinStar’s “Stablemates” cameras. Although, according to Packard, they will mostly see him sleeping.
SUPER SAVER GOOFS OFF AT WINSTAR IN MAY 2013
Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire
“He’s a really unique character, he likes to sleep. He sleeps more than any horse we’ve really ever seen,” she said.
While it’s probable that Super Saver is dreaming of the mares that visit his court, his fans no doubt have sweet dreams of the day he flew past the finish line first in the biggest race of his life.