12/30/2010 4:35PM

Arthur's Tale makes jump to stakes in Count Fleet

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Tom Albertrani will saddle Arthur's Tale for his stakes debut in Saturday's $65,000 Count Fleet at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Arthur’s Tale has the pedigree, connections, and price tag to be a significant horse. A nonfactor in his first three starts, Arthur’s Tale stepped up with a visually impressive maiden victory when stretched out around two turns for the first time in his last outing.

On Saturday, Arthur’s Tale moves into stakes company for the first time when he meets six rivals in the $65,000 Count Fleet – the first dirt stakes of the year for 3-year-olds – at a mile and 70 yards over Aqueduct’s inner track.

The winner of the Count Fleet automatically gets anointed New York’s hopeful for the Kentucky Derby. Seven years ago, Smarty Jones kicked off his 3-year-old campaign by winning the Count Fleet. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Last year, Laus Deo won the Count Fleet. He is 1 for 4 since.

Arthur’s Tale is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable and trained by Tom Albertrani. Those connections won the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini, who is the sire of Arthur’s Tale.

After losing his first three starts, Arthur’s Tale won an off-the-turf, two-turn mile maiden race Dec. 2, after being carried out wide by a bolting horse entering the first turn and dueling with Dance City until the eighth pole. It was his first start with blinkers.

“I thought he ran a huge race, considering all things,” Albertrani said. “I thought it was a good step up for him. I don’t know if it was the two turns or the blinkers that helped him; maybe a combination of the two.”

While Arthur’s Tale was a $750,000 auction purchase, J.J.’s Lucky Train cost one-tenth of that in two separate transactions. Purchased as a 2-year-old for $35,000, J.J.’s Lucky Train was claimed by trainer Bill Anderson for $40,000 out of a debut victory at Monmouth in July. He has won two of three starts since, including a first-level allowance at Parx Racing in which he set sharp fractions before pulling away.

“That was a huge race,” said Anderson, who also owns part of the Silver Train colt. “I thought at anytime he was going to cave in, but he dug it out.”

Pants On Fire, who finished a game second in a first-level allowance here Dec. 19 after stumbling at the start, Rush Now, who won the Dover Stakes at Delaware before a non-effort in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot, and Tap Star, a recent maiden winner at Parx Racing, look to be the other significant players.