Escapefromreality set the pace and turned back a challenge from favored Amberjack to win the $150,000 Albany for New York-bred 3-year-olds by two lengths on Wednesday at Saratoga Race Course.
With the win, Escapefromreality denied Amberjack a sweep of the Big Apple Triple Series - comprising the Mike Lee at Belmont Park, the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, and the Albany - and a $250,000 bonus.
Backed as the 3-1 second choice, Escapefromreality immediately seized the lead and set comfortable fractions of 24.56 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.30 for a half as Amberjack raced off his flank in second.
Amberjack came to Escapefromreality's throatlatch at the quarter pole, but the pacesetter turned back the challenge under Javier Castellano's drive.
Escapefromreality returned $8.50 for a $2 win wager and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.61.
"The way it set up, the pace was phenomenal for myself and my horse," said Castellano. "The way I handicapped the race, there could have been other horses going to the lead. I broke out of the gate on top, and it worked out great. When I see the other horse, the heavy favorite [Amberjack], look like he was going to go by, I was very fortunate my horse had something left in the tank. When I used him a little bit, he responded so well."
It was the second straight win for Escapefromreality, who won a seven-furlong optional claimer for New York-breds by 3 ½ lengths on July 4 in his most recent start.
"Our plan from July 4 was to run him in this race," said Dominick Schettino, who trains Escapefromreality for MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables. "Javier has been working him every time, and he had been training up to this race in excellent shape. I left the race up to Javier, depending on how he broke out of the gate. This horse, when he's in front, he tries to stay in front. Amberjack is a nice horse, too. It was a great race."
The Albany was the third stakes start for Escapefromreality, who was second by a neck in the Grade 3 Withers and ninth in the Grade 3 Gotham during the winter at Aqueduct Racetrack. Overall, he is 3-2-0 in six starts and has earned $210,534, including $90,000 for his Albany victory.
Michael Hushion, trainer of Amberjack, was gracious in defeat.
"We were in the right place, laying second to him [Escapefromreality]," said Hushion. "It was [Amberjack's] race to take at the top of the stretch if he was good enough today. Tip our hat to the winner and try to figure out how we can beat him the next time. I think he was second-best. It looks like that when you can't catch the winner sometimes."
Smooth Bert finished 4 ¼ lengths behind the winner in third and was followed home by Go Get the Basil, Seventy Six, and In Harm's Way. Ego Friendly was scratched.