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Saratoga: Csaba, Percussion get class relief in Alydar Stakes
By Mike Welsch
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After facing several of the leading members of the handicap division earlier this month in the Grade 1 Whitney, Csaba will get some welcome class relief Thursday at Saratoga when he meets four more suitable rivals in the $100,000 Alydar Stakes.
Trainer Phil Gleaves had originally pointed Csaba for another overnight stakes, the Birdstone, scheduled to be run Aug. 2, the day before the Whitney. But when that race did not fill, Gleaves went to Plan B and decided to try the Whitney, with Csaba checking in seventh, 9 1/4 lengths behind race winner Cross Traffic.
“He was in a little over his head in the Whitney – we all knew that – but considering the quality of the field, I thought he turned in a pretty good performance,” said Gleaves, who is based year-round in southern Florida. “Even though this field is small, there is lots of talent in there, but I sure like it a lot better than the last one. He bounced out of the Whitney in good shape, and I’m expecting a big performance on Thursday.”
Csaba is the only multiple Grade 3 winner in the lineup.
Gleaves expects Csaba to sit just off the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Alydar. “My horse is pretty tractable and shouldn’t be too far back,” he said.
Gleaves again will turn over the reins on Csaba to Luis Saez.
Among those Csaba will face are two from Todd Pletcher – Percussion, who has speed and breaks from the rail, and Vitoria Olimpica, who makes his first start on dirt.
Percussion missed by a length after setting the pace in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap going 1 1/2 miles June 7 and also will get some class relief in the Alydar. Percussion has not started since July 6, when he stumbled at the break and recovered to set the pace before fading late to finish fifth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. Pletcher will take the blinkers off Percussion on Thursday.
Vitoria Olimpica, a Group 1 and Group 2 winner on grass in his native Brazil, makes his eighth career start Thursday and has never run on anything but grass. Vitoria Olimpica has raced just once in the United States, finishing sixth after contesting the pace to midstretch in a high-priced optional-claiming race here July 24.
Easter Gift likely will be favored in the Alydar despite having been idle since extending his winning streak to three in Penn National’s Mountainview Handicap on June 1. The steadily improving Easter Gift, now with trainer Chad Brown, became a Grade 3 winner at 3 last year when he captured Parx’s Smarty Jones Stakes while running for trainer Nick Zito.
Aussi Austin has not finished off the board in four optional-claiming races since being claimed for $30,000 by trainer Rudy Rodriguez this winter at Gulfstream Park.
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