Abdullah Saeed Almaddah's Green Mask rolled to victory in the $250,000 Troy Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs over the Saratoga Race Course turf in a speedy 1:00.49, just three one-hundredths of a second off the course record.
The runner-up by a neck to top turf sprinter Disco Partner in last year's Troy, Green Mask settled into third just behind a quick pace set by Bold Thunder and Pure Sensation, who battled on the front end to run the first quarter-mile in :21.76 and a half-mile in :43.91.
Coming off the turn for home three wide, Green Mask, under recent Hall of Fame inductee Javier Castellano, cut into the leaders' advantage and then swept by at the top of the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Holding Gold and Long On Value gave chase to pick up second and third, respectively.
"On 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 judgment. I felt I had the best horse in the race, and I put him outside and just let him roll.
"For some reason we click—me and the horse. I've been watching the horse for a long time and I know he's a great horse. 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, (the more) he's going to give it to you. I've been very lucky. Every single race, it has set up for him."
The 6-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding trained by Brad Cox, has finished first or second in his last seven starts, including a two-length victory in the Highlander Stakes (G2T) over the Woodbine turf in his last start July 2.
"I was really pleased with the effort. He had been training well," Cox said. "Going into last fall at Belmont, we were starting to wonder if he even knew how to win anymore. ... He broke extremely sharp. 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. The other guys that have rode him in the past have done a great job as well, but he's really responded to Javier.
"From here we'll take a look at the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational (Oct. 7) and then maybe a (5 1/2-furlong race) at Keeneland as well. 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 (Invitational Stakes, G3T) 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 the Breeders' Cup."
The winner paid $5, $2.90, and $2.30 across the board. Holding Gold returned $4.40 and $3.20, and Long On Value paid $4 to show. Undrafted, Mongolian Saturday, Pure Sensation, and Bold Thunder completed the order of finish.