Separated by less than a length in last month’s A.P. Smithwick Memorial (G1), Moscato and Optimus Prime are ready to serve up an intriguing rematch in Thursday’s $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (G1) at Saratoga, a 2 3/8-mile hurdle.
Moscato ran down Optimus Prime in the final furlong of the Smithwick, improving his season record to 2-for-2 following an earlier blowout win in the Temple Gwathmey (G3) at Middleburg, Virginia. Although the current division leader, the 9-year-old gray figures to face a stronger challenge from Optimus Prime, who was making his first start in more than a year in the Smithwick.
“I just hope that horse [Optimus Prime] didn’t need the race,” said Moscato’s trainer Jack Fisher, who believes the added distance will help Moscato. “He won going two miles at Royal Ascot and he’s a true stayer.”
Optimus Prime has won four of six starts since his importation and has never finished worse than third. His first start on U.S. soil resulted in a 7-1 upset of the 2018 Turf Writers Cup.
Also returning from the Smithwick are Gibralfaro, who finished third, and fourth-place finisher Redicean. Gibralfaro finished a distant second behind Winston C in the 2019 Turf Writers Cup, a nose in front of Belisarius.
Zanjabeel, the 2018 champion steeplechaser, has disappointed in two starts since returning from an extended layoff. Fourth to Gibralfaro in the Zeke Ferguson Memorial (G2) in October, Zanjabeel was pulled up in the June 13 Temple Gwathmey won by Moscato.