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