09/20/2011 1:28PM

Parx Racing: Arthur's Tale ready for comeback in Pennsylvania Derby

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Michael Amoruso
Arthur’s Tale (No. 4) finishes second to Toby’s Corner in the Wood Memorial on April 9 at Aqueduct. Arthur’s Tale has not started since that race.

Arthur’s Tale was hardly on the Triple Crown trail long enough to have fallen off of it.

After a winter disappointing in stakes races run over Aqueduct’s inner track, Arthur’s Tale broke through with a solid second-place finish in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April.

The result put Arthur’s Tale on the bubble as far as graded stakes earnings went to get into the Kentucky Derby. But any Derby dreams were shattered a few days after the Wood, when Arthur’s Tale was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the cannon bone of his left foreleg.

After some time to heal and a series of steady workouts, Arthur’s Tale returns to the races in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.

Arthur’s Tale was one of nine 3-year-olds entered in the Pennsylvania Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles, which tops a 12-race Saturday program at Parx Racing that begins at 12:05 p.m. The Pennsylvania Derby goes as race 11 at 5:45.

Ruler On Ice, the Belmont Stakes winner, drew the rail and was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Pennsylvania Derby. As the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, Ruler On Ice will carry 124 pounds, spotting 5 to 10 pounds to his eight rivals.

Arthur’s Tale, who gets 10 pounds from Ruler On Ice, is one of four nonstakes winners in the field. A son of Bernardini purchased for $750,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Select yearling sale in Saratoga in 2009, Arthur’s Tale has won just twice from 10 starts for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Darley Stable and trainer Tom Albertrani.

Arthur’s Tale won an off-the-turf maiden race over Aqueduct’s inner track last December before finishing fourth in both the Count Fleet and Whirlaway Stakes, also contested over the inner track. On March 23, he struggled to win a four-horse allowance race by a neck.

Despite the presence of then undefeated 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo in the race, Arthur’s Tale was wheeled back 17 days later in the Wood, his first start over the more spacious main track. After racing between horses down the backside, Arthur’s Tale was tipped five wide by Ramon Dominguez in the stretch, went past the pacesetting Uncle Mo at the sixteenth pole, but was outfinished by Toby’s Corner, who won the Wood by a neck. Arthur’s Tale finished one length clear of Uncle Mo.

“I don’t think he cared for the inner track,” Albertrani said. “Stretching him out two turns on the main track, maybe he appreciated the bigger turns. He looked like he could have been a legitimate contender to go to the Derby off of” the Wood.

The Wednesday after the Wood, Arthur’s Tale was diagnosed with his injury. He spent nearly two months at Keeneland, where Darley keeps its layups with Johnny Burke, before returning to Albertrani’s care in June. He returned to the work tab in late July, and Albertrani had considered the Travers in late August, but thought the colt needed more time.

Arthur’s Tale will have nine published works leading up to the Pennsylvania Derby, including a five-furlong move in 1:03.88 on Tuesday morning over Belmont’s main track.

“He’s been training forwardly,” Albertrani said. “The Travers was a target, but to me he didn’t seem like he was quite there yet. He’s more aggressive now. I like the way he’s been training at this moment.”

Arthur’s Tale will break from post 2 and is listed as a 12-1 shot on the morning line in a field that includes Ruler On Ice, multiple Grade 2 winner To Honor and Serve, Long Branch Stakes and Travers runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge, and Pender Harbour, winner of two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Rounding out the field are J W Blue, Rush Now, Norman Asbjornson, and Isn’t He Perfect.

“He still has more to prove,” Albertrani said. “Hopefully, the Wood wasn’t just a one-time big race that he ran. He’s got to come back and repeat that same type of performance.”

Saturday’s card at Parx also includes the $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters. Indiano, who has won three consecutive stakes, and Wine Police, a recent overnight stakes winner at Saratoga, head the seven-horse field.