Green Mask dominates Troy Handicap
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Abdullah Saeed Almaddah’s Green Mask narrowly missed the track record for 5½ furlongs, crossing the wire in 1:00:49 after a perfect stalk and pounce trip to win the $250,000 Troy on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course, and solidify himself as one of the top turf sprinters in North America.
Green Mask stalked Patricia Generazio’s Pure Sensation and Andrew Sully’s Bold Thunder through fractions of 21.76 seconds for the quarter and 43.91 for the half. Turning for home, the Brad Cox-trained Green Mask quickly steadied away from field at the urging of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, drawing clear to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Live Oak Plantation’s Holding Gold.
“It was a great setup. He broke extremely sharp,” said Cox. “Javier did a good job letting the two in front duke it out on the front end and it set up great. Javier just fits him really well.”
“In the backside, we were rolling because I could feel the breeze coming right in my face and I was like, ‘Whoa, we’re going fast,'” Castellano said. “Before you know it, they’re going to come back to you and you have to be very aware in the situation. You don’t want to be behind horses. I used my best judgement. I felt I had the best horse in the race and I put him outside and just let him roll.”
The 6-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding finished .03 behind the track record for 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon Turf, set by Lady Shipman in the 2015 Smart N Fancy stakes. The victory was Green Mask’s third stakes score in 2017 from six races, at six different tracks, with second place finishes in his other three contests.
“For some reason we click, me and the horse. I’ve been watching the horse for a long time and I know he’s great,” Castellano said. “I’ve learned a lot with him. I think one of the keys is you have to ride him with a lot of patience and a lot of confidence. The more patient you ride, he’s going to give it to you. I’ve been very lucky. Every single race it has set up for him.”
Green Mask, who went off as the 3-2 favorite, paid $5 on a $2 win ticket and pushed his career earnings over a million dollars to $1,064,761. The connections are now focused on getting to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in November.
“From here we’ll take a look at the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and then maybe the five-and-half at Keeneland as well,” Cox said. “We’ll take a look at both of them. I believe they’re both three weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup. He ran back in 22 days after the Jaipur into the Woodbine race so he can come back on short rest. We definitely want him sharp on Breeders’ Cup Day so we’ll let him tell us where he’s at but it’s possible he could make another start before Breeders’ Cup.”
Long on Value finished third, followed by Undrafted, Mongolian Saturday, Pure Sensation, and Bold Thunder.
Doctor J Dub and Weekend Hideaway were entered for main track only.
In Race 3, Paul Pompa Jr.’s Rally Cry went all in with an 8 ¾-length romp to lead a Todd Pletcher-trained exacta in the $100,000 Alydar for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
Rally Cry settled in second behind Conquest Windycity, who led the opening quarter-mile in 23.66 and the half in 47.40. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt took control at the top of the stretch and drew off to a comfortable lead through the stretch.
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Rally Cry returned $3.50. The final time was 1:48.58.
The Alydar was the first stakes win for Rally Cry, who boasts a 4-1-3 record from 10 starts and lifetime earnings of $250,380. Last time out, he finished sixth in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap around a one-turn mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 10.
“He’s had some time off and this is the first opportunity he’s really had to get in two turns with a mile and an eighth. The way he trains, he always gives us depth and confidence, that’s really what he’s the best at. We’re just really happy to have this opportunity to show what he’s capable of,” said Pletcher, who added that Rally Cry will be under consideration for the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2.
Last early, fellow Pletcher trainee Red Rifle rallied from the back to the pack to get up late for second, a neck ahead of Conquest Windycity. Mo Tom and Mohaymen rounded out the order of finish.