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Artest Stretches Out in Equalize

Saratoga Race Course 2012 logo
Photo: NYRA

One month after scoring his first stakes victory in the $100,000 Quick Call at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass, Dennis Narlinger’s Artest heads to the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course to tackle a strong field in the $100,000 Equalize for 3-year-olds on Thursday.

Trained by Michelle Nihei, the 3-year-old son of Hard Spun showed dazzling late punch to go from sixth place to first and win by 1 ½ lengths in a time of 1:02.19. The Quick Call came just six days after Artest finished seventh in an optional-claiming race at a mile on the grass, the same distance as the Equalize.

Nihei scratched Artest from the 5 ½-furlong Troy for 3-year-olds and up on August 15 to wait for this spot, determined to try the mile distance again.

“I aimed him [to the Troy] because of his performance in the Quick Call, obviously,” Nihei said. “On the whole, the connections felt that while it was worth taking a look at and wanting to be in that spot – and he’d run well there – he’d have a lot to compete with, and we would have had a lot of older horses to compete with. Their preference was to take the longer view again because he does strike you in many ways as a two-turn horse when he’s training.

“Their position was to go back and try a restricted 3-year-old stakes with hopefully some speed in it. That way we open up his options, because if he’s just a 5 ½-furlong horse as a 3-year-old, it closes a few doors.”

Artest, 8-1 on the morning line, will be piloted by meet-leading rider Ramon Dominguez.

Favored at 5-2 on the morning line is Finale, a winner of a Grade 3 stakes last year at Woodbine who is returning to the track for the first time since finishing second in the Dania Beach last December at Gulfstream Park. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Scat Daddy is 3-for-7 lifetime and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.

Csaba, second by a nose in the off-the-turf Grade 2 Hall of Fame on August 10, will be seeking his first grass victory in three starts on the surface. Trained by Phil Gleaves, the son of Kitten’s Joy placed third in the Grade 3 Palm Beach on the turf on March 11. He will run as part of an entry with Miami Cat.

Rounding out the field are Grade 3-placed Film Shot, Capetown Devil, Yari, Tiz Sardonic Joe, Southern Parkway, and Twilight Eclipse. Lockout and Spring to the Sky are also eligible, with Inflation Target entered main track only.

 

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