Escapefromreality denied Amberjack a sweep of the Big Apple Triple while earning his first stakes victory, leading all the way in the $150,000 Albany Stakes for New York-breds Aug. 21 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
The second choice in the field of six 3-year-olds, Escapefromreality scored by two lengths over 3-5 favorite Amberjack for owners Brooklyn Boyz Stables and MeB Racing Stables and trainer Dominick Schettino. Brooklyn Boyz Stables bred the winning bay gelding, who is by Read the Footnotes out of the unraced mare Queen of the City, by Medaglia d'Oro .
Amberjack, a convincing winner of the Mike Lee Stakes and New York Derby, was shooting for a $250,000 bonus by sweeping the three-race series for Peachtree Stable and trainer Michael Hushion. Only one horse, Tin Cup Chalice in 2008, has swept the series.
Escapefromreality, who carried 119 pounds to Amberjack's 124, was timed in 1:51.61 for the 1 1/8-mile distance on a fast track.
Javier Castellano took Escapefromreality to the front on the outside of Smooth Bert and they promptly moved out to a 1 1/2-length advantage over Amberjack and Smooth Bert. The favorite was in hand for jockey Junior Alvarado while tracking the leader on the outside through comfortable fractions of :24.56, :49.30, and 1:13.37.
Castellano coaxed Escapefromreality for more rounding the far turn as Amberjack drew to within a half-length. They were on nearly even terms at the head of the stretch before Escapefromreality dug in under urging while drifting out with a furlong to run. In front by a half-length.
Escapefromreality straightened out in deep stretch and was pulling away from Amberjack approaching the wire.
"It worked out great," Castellano said. "The way it set up, the pace was phenomenal for myself and my horse. When I see the other horse, the heavy favorite, look like he was going to go by, I was very fortunate my horse had something left in the tank. When I used him a little bit, he responded so well. I'm very satisfied the way he did it today."
Hushion took Amberjack's defeat in stride.
"We were in the right place, laying second," he said. "It was his race to take at the top of the stretch if he was good enough today. Tip our hat to the winner and try to figure out how we can beat him the next time."
Sent off at 3-1 odds, Escapefromreality was coming off an allowance/optional claiming victory at seven furlongs as the favorite July 4 at Belmont Park. That was his first start in four months following a ninth-place finish in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III).
Escapefromreality was just a neck behind Revolutionary when beaten by a neck in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) prior to the Gotham. His overall mark stands at three wins and two seconds from six starts with earnings of $210,534.
"Our plan from July 4 was to run him in this race," Schettino said. "Javier has been working him every time, and he had been training up to this race in excellent shape. This horse, when he's in front, he tries to stay in front. Amberjack is a nice horse, too. It was a great race."
Escapefromreality paid $8.50, $3.40, and $2.50, keying a $20.40 exacta with Amberjack, who returned $2.30 and $2.10. Smooth Bert paid $2.80.
Ego Friendly scratched.