Amberjack, named after a saltwater gamefish, will try to land a big one today.
The chestnut son of Indygo Shiner is in position to earn a $250,000 bonus if he wins the $150,000 Albany Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
For the fourth time since the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Association first offered the bonus in 1999, a New York-bred 3-year-old has a chance to complete the Big Apple Triple.
Amberjack, owned by John Fort’s Peachtree Stable, got here by winning the first two legs — the seven-furlong Mike Lee at Belmont Park on June 1 and the mile-and-a-sixteenth New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 20.
He has won three straight since coming to trainer Mike Hushion’s barn following a race in which he was eased by Corey Lanerie at Gulfstream Park in January.
“It’s always a challenge to get a horse to put three together, any size, shape and color, much less a talented horse that runs fast,” Hushion said.
Amberjack will regain the services of Junior Alvarado, who was on for the Mike Lee.
Jose Espinoza had a one-race deal for the New York Derby because Alvarado had a riding commitment at Saratoga that day.
Alvarado also has worked Amberjack in the morning.
“It always helps to have a rider in the morning come back and tell you that he’s the same horse he was before his last win, in his opinion,” Husion said.
Amberjack, the 4-5 morning-line favorite, is one of five of the seven horses in the Albany who has not raced a mile and an eighth, but he handled the mile and a sixteenth of the New York Derby with ease, winning by 6 1⁄2 lengths over Bona Venture Stables’ Smooth Bert, who is back for the Albany.
“I’m not concerned about that [distance],” Hushion said. “That’s one thing that’s not a factor. He gallops out fast enough to be competitive with those at that distance.”
Alvarado will still have to work out a trip from the four post, though.
In the New York Derby, Amberjack and Espinoza were inside before coming out four wide to split Smooth Bert and Street Lord as they got into the stretch.
“I was a little concerned. They had him trapped on the inside,” Husion said. “I don’t like it when a horse is under restraint as long as he was. But when he got a seam to get out at the top of the stretch, it took him about two strides to get going, and he acccelerated away.”
Since the Big Apple Triple was added in 1999, only one horse, Finger Lakes shipper Tin Cup Chalice (2008), has completed the sweep to win the bonus.