08/22/2011 1:48PM

Saratoga: Contessa has two to complete triple

Stephanie Van Minos/Tom Cooley
Socialsaul, with John Grabowski riding, wins the New York Derby.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There is a $100,000 bonus offered to the connections of a horse who can sweep the three legs of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds. Unfortunately for trainer Gary Contessa, there is not a bonus given if a trainer sweeps the series with multiple horses.

Contessa won the Mike Lee at Belmont Park with Preachintothedevil and the New York Derby at Finger Lakes with Socialsaul and on Wednesday he sends out both in the $100,000 Albany Stakes at Saratoga. A field of nine was entered for the Albany, run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, and the uncoupled Contessa entry figure to be the top two choices in the race.

After losing his debut sprinting in the mud at Belmont on May 18, Socialsaul has gone 3 for 3 on fast dirt tracks at distances of a mile or further. His most recent win came by 4 1/4 lengths over Preachintothedevil in the New York Derby at 1 1/16 miles. While Preachintothedevil did stumble at the start, and Socialsaul had an easy stalking trip outside of a longshot speed horse, Socialsaul turned back his stablemate’s challenge at the quarter pole.

“On paper, Socialsaul is looking like the better horse, but Preachintothedevil has always shown he’s a quality horse to me,” Contessa said. “I think they are very, very close. I think trip is going to be everything.”

Contessa believes Preachintothedevil’s stumble at the start of the New York Derby impacted his trip. He did seem a bit rank early on, but settled into third and eventually drew on even terms with Socialsaul.

“Socialsaul had a garden trip, I don’t know what would have happened if they both had the perfect trip,” Contessa said. “To me, I have a hard time separating these horses.”

Contessa is making a rider change from Jose Espinoza to Ramon Dominguez on Preachintothedevil. In a race without much speed, Contessa said it wouldn’t surprise him to see Preachintothedevil on the lead in the Albany.

“I would give Dominguez that option,” Contessa said. “I do believe Preachintothedevil will be on or close to the lead. Socialcaul will be behind Preachintothedevil if [Preachintothedevil] has a clean break.”

Socialsaul will break from post 6 under Javier Castellano. Preachintothedevil has post 7.

Sailmate, a son of Friends Lake trained by John Kimmel, has won two races and appears to have the pedigree to suggest he could get 1 1/8 miles. Sky Music, Bound by Humor, and Pin Number are others in this field with a chance.