The 1 1/8-mile Albany is the third and final leg of the Big Apple Triple, a three-race series for 3-year-old New York-breds. Amberjack is eligible for the bonus, presented by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Association, having already won the June 1 Mike Lee at Belmont Park and the July 20 New York Derby at Finger Lakes. Only one horse, Tin Cup Chalice in 2008, has swept the series.
Amberjack, a sophomore son of Indygo Shiner, won a single race in three starts for trainer Dale Romans before he was transferred to Michael Hushion by John Fort's Peachtree Stable. In his debut for Hushion, Amberjack posted a half-length victory under a hand ride in May at Belmont.
Cut back in distance for the seven-furlong Mike Lee, Amberjack rallied from fifth and posted 1 3/4-length victory. He had no problem negotiating two turns in the 1 1/16-mile New York Derby, tracking the pace and drawing clear in the stretch en route to a 6 1/2-length score.
"When you win the Mike Lee, everyone thinks about (a Big Apple Triple) possibility," said Hushion. "We thought he wanted to go longer, so we certainly felt like we had a chance. I think he'll show up and run his race in the Albany."
The Albany will be Amberjack's first start at 1 1/8 miles. He last worked four furlongs Aug. 15 in :50.93 at Saratoga.
"That went well," Hushion reported. "(Jockey) Junior Alvarado was on him again, and he was very comfortable. He worked like the same horse he's been all along. I think the extra sixteenth of a mile will be to our advantage."
Alvarado, aboard Amberjack in the Mike Lee, will ride the colt from post 4 as part of a 124-pound highweight impost. Amberjack was installed as the 4-5 favorite on the morning line.
Escapefromreality, second by a neck to Revolutionary after leading in the stretch of the Withers Stakes (gr. III) in February at Aqueduct Racetrack, is also of interest as he seeks his first stakes win.
After the Withers, Escapefromreality finished ninth in Aqueduct's Gotham (gr. III) in March following a rough trip. Trainer Dominick Schettino and owners MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables elected to give the gelded son of Read the Footnotes some time off following the Gotham. The move paid off when he returned to post a 3 1/2-length gate-to-wire victory in a seven-furlong optional claimer for New York-breds on July 4 at Belmont.
"He has the talent, so I'm expecting him to run a big race," said Schettino. "I threw out the Gotham. The Withers probably took a little out of him and I probably ran him back a little too soon. I gave him a break and freshened him up, and he won that race on July 4 pretty impressively. He's doing everything right. He'll do whatever you ask him—he'll go the lead, he'll sit off. He's very versatile."
Escapefromreality, 7-2 second choice on the morning-line, will depart from post 3 with Javier Castellano aboard.
The Albany field also includes Smooth Bert and Go Get the Basil, second and fourth, respectively, in the New York Derby; Seventy Six, who won an optional claimer for New York-breds July 12 at Belmont; and the coupled entry of Ego Friendly and In Harm's Way.
$150,000 Albany Stakes (Race 9, approximate post time 5:20 p.m. EDT), 3YO New York-breds, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. a-Ego Friendly, J. Rocco, Jr., 117, J C Kimmel, 20-1
2. Smooth Bert, M.J. Luzzi, 119, L Gyarmati, 5-1
3. Escapefromreality, J. Castellano, 119, D Schettino, 7-2
4. Amberjack, J. Alvarado, 124, M E Hushion, 4-5
5. a-In Harm's Way, O. Gomez, 117, C Progno, 20-1
6. Seventy Six, R. Napravnik, 121, R DeMola, 12-1
7. Go Get the Basil, A. Garcia, 119, R A. Violette, Jr., 6-1