Mask Back Where He Started

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6:24 am

Mask is set to make his first start in New York since impressively breaking his maiden last October in the Easy Goer Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 mile on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Purchased as a yearling for $685,000, the son of Tapit won his debut last October at Belmont by three lengths. He began his 3-year-old campaign in the Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 6 at Gulfstream Park, where he cruised to a 6 1/4-length victory besting a field of seven. A setback that threw him off the Triple Crown Trail, but Mask returned to training in March and made his most recent start in the Pat Day Mile on a wet Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs, where he left the gate as the 5-2 post time favorite and finished eighth.

"We're just going to draw a line through his last race," said Mask's trainer Chad Brown. "He didn't really take to the sloppy track, but since then he's been training very well and we're looking for him to return to the form he showed at Gulfstream."

The 5-2 morning line favorite, Mask will leave from post 2 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard.

Entering for trainer Shug McGaughey is the Phipps Stable homebred Breaking the Rules. By War Front, he made his debut this winter at Gulfstream at six furlongs and won by a neck. In his last start, he won an allowance race again at six furlongs while recording a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

"His first two races were awfully good," said McGaughey. "He's trained awfully well and I'm looking forward to getting him stretched out a bit. I think he's winning doing something he doesn't really want to do. I think he wants to go farther where he's a little more forwardly placed."

McGaughey, who trained Easy Goer himself, would like to win the race but is also proud of the legacy the Phipps family has brought to the sport with their breeding program.

"It would be nice to win the race," said McGaughey. "Even if it was still called the Forward Pass. He has a deep pedigree, and (Easy Goer)has been very nice to us. My Flag was by Easy Goer. It's meant a lot to the Phipps family, and I think the pedigree has meant a lot to racing."

At odds of 4-1 on the morning line, Breaking the Rules will depart from post 6 with Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Shipping in from California for trainer Peter Eurton is Dark Vader.

The Tale of Ekati colt broke his maiden in his fourth career start last September before making his 2018 debut in the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita Park where he ran third. Following a fifth-place finish in the Sunland Derby, Dark Vader won an optional-claiming race on May 11 at Santa Anita while recording a field high 95 Beyer.

Drawing post 7 at a morning line of 9-2, Dark Vader will retain the services of Corey Nakatani in the saddle.

The remainder of the field:

--High North for trainer Brad Cox, who last out finished fourth in the Peter Pan;

--Prince Lucky for trainer Todd Pletcher;

--Soutache for trainer Ralph Nicks;

--Rugbyman for trainer Graham Motion; and

--Lunar Beauty for trainer Rick Violette.

Edited NYRA release