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Aaron previews the 2022 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots. The 2021 Alydar Stakes winner Art Collector returns to defend his title against a new group of rivals, but will the champ repeat or is an upset brewing? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector takes on three other graded stakes winners in Thursday’s $135,000 Alydar, a nine-furlong test for older horses who have not won a stakes other than state-bred in 2022, at Saratoga Race Course.
Art Collector, a three-time graded stakes-winning 5-year-old, brags a record of 17-8-1-0 and lifetime earnings of $1,655,305 as the lone millionaire in the field. He made his debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott with a gate-to-wire score in last year’s Alydar, defeating graded stakes winners Night Ops and Math Wizard. The bay son of Bernardini won by 1 1/2 lengths on the pathway to a solid 4-year-old season, subsequently capturing the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and the Grade 1 Woodward at Belmont Park en route to a sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.
Mott said Art Collector could follow a similar trail during his current campaign.
“Those are races we’re looking at, but we have to get through the first one, first,” Mott said.
Art Collector enters off an international engagement in the Group 1 Saudi Cup in February, finishing an uncharacteristic 12th. Mott said the performance could have been due to a heavy track at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
“He was up close to the lead and then everybody in there, several good horses, backed up from the race,” Mott said. “It’s a different kind of track, completely different type of surface. It was safe, but maybe a little heavy, sticky, or laboring might be the best way to put it.”
Conditioned by Joe Sharp as a 2-year-old, Art Collector broke his maiden on grass in September 2019 at Kentucky Downs and switched to dirt after running seventh in his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland. After a pair of two-turn allowance scores the following year at Churchill Downs for trainer Tommy Drury, Jr., he captured the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Ellis Park Derby en route to a distant fourth in the Grade 1 Preakness.
Luis Saez, last year’s leading rider at Saratoga, will retain the mount from post 5.
FTGGG Racing’s Masqueparade will make his first start at the Spa since finishing a distant sixth to Essential Quality in last year’s Grade 1 Runhappy Travers for trainer AI Stall, Jr., who captured the 2019 Alydar with eventual Grade 1-winning millionaire Tom’s d’Etat.
The son of Upstart enjoyed a successful 3-year-old season, which included a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He also won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown, earning a 98 Beyer in defeating fellow Alydar aspirant King Fury.
Masqueparade was a close second in his 2022 debut, a two-turn allowance optional claimer for non-winners of four races on May 13 at Churchill Downs. He earned a victory for the same condition at Churchill next out on June 23.Stall, Jr. said Masqueparade has trained forwardly since returning to the Spa, logging a trio of works over the main track this month.
“He might have needed both races this year. He’s big and carries a lot of weight and those stud horses, when they have a long time off, aren’t the easiest thing in the world to get back,” Stall, Jr. said. “We’re happy he came back trying really hard and running at the same level he was last year. The third race back is what we’re looking forward to. His training and breezes have been great up here, so we’re right on schedule.”
Joel Rosario, who rode Tom’s d’Etat in the 2019 Alydar, will pilot Masqueparade from post 6.
Trainer Kenny McPeek will saddle Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s King Fury, who is in search of his first win since a 13-length romp in last year’s Bourbon Trail at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Curlin chestnut, out of Grade 1-winner Taris, has not raced since finishing a distant eighth in the Kentucky Cup Classic on April 2 over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park.
“He jammed his shoulder up in his last race – we don’t know why or when,” McPeek said. “He came out of it with a tweaked right shoulder and it was kind of a weird deal. I thought he’d run well on the synthetic, but he didn’t so we’re back on the dirt where we belong.”
A three-time stakes winner, including last year’s Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland, King Fury has been displaying good energy, according to McPeek, who said the Alydar could be used as a springboard to graded stakes engagements.
“If he runs well, hopefully we’ll see him back in some of the bigger three-and-up races,” McPeek said.
Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard King Fury from post 4.
Five-time winner Chess Chief, trained by Dallas Stewart, will seek his first victory away from Fair Grounds, last finding the winner’s circle in the December 26 Tenacious at the New Orleans oval.
The 6-year-old son of Into Mischief won last year’s Grade 2 New Orleans Classic, defeating graded stakes winners Owendale and Enforceable. Chess Chief will try to make amends in his fourth start this year, following three distant sixth-place finishes this year.
Reylu Gutierrez will ride from post 3.
Peter Brant and Three Chimney Farm’s Mystic Night attempts to build on two straight triumphs for leading Spa trainer Chad Brown. The son of Into Mischief was a two-length winner going two turns over the Keeneland main track in April, two months after a 1 1/2-length score over a sloppy and sealed main track at Aqueduct.
Favored in his last six starts, Mystic Night’s lone stakes effort was a distant sixth in the Queens County at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 1, Mystic Night will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Completing the field is Red Oak Stable’s homebred Bal Harbour, who will make his first start at the Spa since finishing second in the Grade 1 Woodward during his 4-year-old season. The 7-year-old son of First Samurai was last seen finishing fifth in the Queens County on December 18 at Aqueduct. His most recent victory took place in the 2018 Gio Ponti at the Ozone Park oval.
Flavien Prat will pick up the mount from post 2.
The Alydar honors Calumet Farm’s Hall of Fame thoroughbred and prominent sire who finished second to Affirmed in all three legs of the 1978 Triple Crown. Following the string of runner-up efforts, he arrived at the Spa to defeat older horses in that year’s Whitney before winning the Travers via disqualification against Affirmed. The Alydar is carded as Race 8 on Friday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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