The road to the Haskell begins Sunday at Monmouth Park, and the Jersey Shore oval has attracted an interesting field of seven for the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes. Neither Uncle Sigh, nor Ring Weekend, made much of a dent in their Triple Crown starts, but the talented New York-bred, and the Tampa Bay Derby winner, should welcome the step down in class. The pair of sophomores, making their first starts since respective starts in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, figure to vie for favoritism. While both of those Pegasus contenders will take some beating this weekend, I am looking for another colt to step up and get the job done.
After finishing third in his career debut, Albano moved steadily up the class ladder for owner and former governor of Kentucky, Brereton Jones, and trainer, Larry Jones. The half-brother to the graded stakes winning Mark Valeski, broke his maiden in his second career start, and then became a stakes winner in his third. Both of those wins, a maiden special weight, and the Sugar Bowl Stakes came going six furlongs at Fair Grounds. The son of Istan would stretch out to a route for the first time in his next start, the Grade 3 LeComte.
Albano was best of the rest, but could not handle Vicar's In Trouble that day. He would turn the tables on that one when running a big effort against a strong field in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. Leading every jump but the last one on that afternoon, he was nipped on the wire by the ill-fated Intense Holiday.
He completed the New Orleans Kentucky Derby prep series in the Louisiana Derby, but racing luck would not be on his side for the signature race at Fair Grounds. Facing a deep field, he was carried out a bit from his far outside post position going into the first turn, and was subsequently farther back than he had ever been before. Still he was in with a big chance before the far turn, under Kerwin Clark, but was checked hard at a key juncture, and likely lost all chance. Albano did fight on, but could do better than a fifth place finish.
I consider the Louisiana Derby a 'draw a line through it' type of race, and I still have a strong belief in the ability of the colt that ran so big in the Risen Star. Freshened by his patient training team since that effort, I've been waiting for Albano to make his return to the races for a while now. In the Pegasus, Jones and Jones have not picked the easiest spot to return, but on the other hand, neither Uncle Sigh, nor Ring Weekend look unbeatable.
Because he was well beaten in his last start, 2 1/2 months ago, I expect that Albano will go off as the third choice on Sunday. My money will enthusiastically fall on him.