Abdullah Saeed Almaddah’s Green Mask made his third start in two months in Saratoga’s $250,000 Troy Handicap on Sunday, but the back-to-back-to-back racing hasn’t seemed to affect the Brad Cox trainee in any way.
When the gates opened, the Mizzen Mast gelding briefly struck the lead before settling into a nice stalking spot behind the front-running duo of Bold Thunder and Pure Sensation through swift splits of :21.76 and :43.91. Rounding the bend two wide, jockey Javier Castlleano gave the dark bay six-year-old his signal and Green Mask burst to the front, flying home to be 1 3/4 lengths clear on the wire.
The Kentucky-bred completed the 5 1/2-furlong, firm turf contest in 1:00.49, just missing the 1:00.46 track record set by Lady Shipman in August 2015.
Green Mask paid $5 as the 3-2 favorite in the Troy. Grade 2 scorer Holding Gold held second by a half-length over fellow Grade 2 winner Long On Value, while Group 1 conqueror Undrafted finished fourth another 2 3/4 lengths behind. Mongolian Saturday, winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), filled the fifth spot while multiple Grade 3 hero Pure Sensation and dual stakes victor Gold Thunder.
Green Mask joined the millionaire’s club with this win, now boasting $1,064,761 in lifetime earnings. His career mark stands at 7-7-8 from 38 starts, including wins in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G3) and Highlander Stakes (Can-G2) from this year as well as seconds in the Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3), Shakertown Stakes (G2) and Colonel Power Stakes to go 6-3-3-0 in 2017.
The six-year-old finished second in this contest last year before going on to be third in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and rallying for fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita Park. He was also third by only three parts of a length in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland and just missed by a length when filling that same spot in the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1) at Meydan while trained by Wesley Ward.
Bred in Kentucky by D. J. Stable LLC, Green Mask is the first registered foal out of the unraced Forestry mare Bonsai Beauty, who is a half-sister to Grade 2 vixen Masseuse as well as multiple Grade 3-placed stakes winners Buff and Second Performance. Masseuse is the dam of Group 3 conqueror Royal Artillery.
Brad Cox, trainer Green Mask, winner
“I was really pleased with the effort. He had been training well. His last breeze on turf last Monday was fantastic and he’s doing well and figured out how to win. Going into last fall at Belmont, we were starting to wonder if he even knew how to win anymore. He obviously has picked it up and he’s in great form right now.
“It was a great setup. He broke extremely sharp. (Jockey) Javier (Castellano) did a good job letting the two in front duke it out on the front end (Pure Sensation and Holding Gold) and it set up great. Javier just fits him really well. The other guys that have road 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 ($150,000) Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational (on October 7) and then maybe a five-and-half 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 (June 10) Jaipur (Invitational [G3]) into the Woodbine race (Highlander Stakes [Can-G2]), 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.”
Javier Castellano, jockey Green Mask, winner
“It feels great. I’m very blessed to ride those kinds of horses. I appreciate Brad Cox giving me the opportunity to ride the horse. He’s very straightforward. He really surprised me the way he broke out of the gate. He was pretty sharp out of the gate and beat all the horses. He’s the kind of horse you can put in any situation, like the way he did it today; right behind the horses. It set up beautiful. When I asked him, he exploded.
“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, he’s going to give it to you. I’ve been very lucky. Every single race it has set up for him.
“In 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.’ 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 judgement. I felt I had the best horse in the race and I put him outside and just let him roll.”