Saratoga plays host to a pair of stakes on Sunday – the $200,000 Troy Handicap (G3) and $100,000 Alydar Stakes – and each contest features a popular runner.
The Troy Handicap sends a field of eight 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and DISCO PARTNER is the big name in the race. The world record-setting six-year-old captured the 2016 running of this race, when it was ungraded, but skipped last season’s edition in favor of the Fourstardave Handicap (G1), where he finished fourth.
The Christophe Clement trainee closed out his 2017 campaign with a win in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and just missed by a half-length when third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Thus far this season the gray son of Disco Rico has sandwiched a title defense victory in the Jaipur Stakes (G2) between a third in the Shakertown Stakes (G2) and a fading fifth in the Forbidden Apple Stakes last out. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard Sunday.
Grade 2 winner READY FOR RYE has previously faced Disco Partner, finishing second in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational last year and third to that rival’s second in the 2016 Jaipur. The Tom Albertrani gelding earned a 105 BRIS Speed rating for taking an off-the-turf allowance/optional claimer two back on May 27 and reunites with jockey Luis Saez in this spot off a one-paced seventh in the July 7 Parx Dash (G3).
Grade 2 victor HOLDING GOLD ran second in last year’s ungraded Troy Handicap for trainer Mark Casse and eventually wound up in Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1) on Dubai World Cup Day. The Lonhro five-year-old gelding could do no better than seventh on that occasion and was given time to recover from the long trip. He returned June 9 to be fourth in the Jaipur before shipping to Woodbine for a third-place run three weeks later in the Highlander Stakes (Can-G1) most recently. John Velazquez held the reins in that latter contest and returns to the saddle here.
SANDY’Z SLEW tries stakes rivals for only the second time in the past two years. The veteran eight-year-old gelding earned his only stakes credit to date when third in the 2014 running of this race, but enters this edition off a pair of romping wire jobs at Aqueduct and Belmont Park going six furlongs on the turf. Jose Ortiz was aboard the Jeremiah Englehart charge for the most recent of those and has the call Sunday.
Fellow Englehart trainee SQUARE SHOOTER has faced stakes competition just once in his 10-race career, resulting in a sixth-placing in last year’s Withers Stakes (G3), but seems to have found new life on the turf this season. The four-year-old gelding made his grass debut at Laurel Park on April 28, just missing by a neck, and two races later captured an allowance/optional claimer at that venue by 1 3/4 lengths. Jorge Vargas has piloting duties.
The Troy field is completed by multiple Group 3-placed listed winner and claimer TOMBELAINE, who enters this spot off a half-length triumph against allowance/optional claiming scorers under returning jockey David Cohen; dual stakes victor BLIND AMBITION, unplaced in the Forbidden Apple and Jaipur in his last two; and lightly raced Grade 3 runner-up EASTWOOD, who makes his eight-year-old bow in this spot.
The Alydar features only five runners going 1 1/8 miles on the main track but one of those five is the ever-popular, one-eyed PATCH.
The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Union Rags was third last year in the Belmont Stakes (G1), and returned for his four-year-old campaign with a neck victory against allowance foes on May 12 at Belmont Park. He showed up at Churchill Downs on June 16 but tired after the half to be seventh on the wire of the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), and will attempt to rebound here for a first stakes win under jockey Luis Saez.
TIMELINE gained famed last year when taking the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) and Pegasus Stakes (G3) by 3 1/2 lengths each for trainer Chad Brown. The Hard Spun chestnut was unplaced in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in his final two races as a three-year-old, but returned this year to sandwich a win against allowance/optional claiming rivals between a third when facing similar on April 20 and a second in the July 6 State Dinner Stakes most recently. Javier Castellano has the call.
KURILOV, a Group 1 winner in his native Chile, just missed by a neck in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1) to kick off his five-year-old season on February 10 for Brown. The bay son of Lookin at Lucky returns to the main track on Sunday under Irad Ortiz Jr. off an eighth-placing in the grassy United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park on June 30.
Grade 1-placed REALM takes on stakes rivals for the first time here since finishing sixth in last year’s State Dinner. In the interim, the Barclay Tagg-trained gelding has run up a 1-1-1 line from seven starts against allowance/optional claimers. The Haynesfield five-year-old breezed a bullet five furlongs at Saratoga on July 27 to ready for the Alydar. Junior Alvarado will be in the irons.
OUTPLAY, a 5 3/4-length winner of last year’s Curlin Stakes, is looking to improve off a pair of unplaced efforts in Grade 2 events at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park. The Pletcher four-year-old gets the services of John Velazquez.