Saratoga Weekend Feature Preview – Alabama Weekend
On Saturday, seven of the world’s best three year old fillies will take to the Saratoga track for the 132nd edition of the Alabama Stakes. The Grade One is but a fraction of the five big-time races gracing the weekend’s card, however, and we’ve got each broken down below.
Friday – Summer Guest Stakes: The second race on this weekend’s card will see seven quality fillies take the starting gate for this 100K stakes. The question to be answered over this mile and an eighth course will be whether or not Ciao Bella, the 2/1 morning line favorite, will be as good as advertised. This three year old filly has been as lightly raced as she has been impressive, but I lean toward the impressive. Winner of her only two races by over eleven lengths, she should have no problem with the distance and is the just favorite. Around her, the five, Moment in Dixie, and the seven, Ainsley, are horses who could certainly sneak a win. But to me, this is Ciao Bella – the Pletcher trainee’s – race.
Friday – Yaddo Stakes: Another early member of Friday’s card brings us this 150K, mile and sixteenth turf race. And for my money, it brings me as close to a sure-fire exacta as you could get. Two horses – the 1, Gitchee Goomie, and the 5, Hessonite – have been pegged as even money favorites on the morning line, and every bit of it is just. Having triumphed over Hessonite in their last two races, I have to give the advantage to Gitchee Goomie, but the pair are separated by the slimmest of margins. Upset possibilities could come from front-runners Elusive Rumor and Mystic City – as both of the favorites will prefer to close – but any entrant other than the favorites should be considered the longest of long shots.
Saturday – Grade 1 Sword Dancer: Winner of two straight, Turbo Compressor, will lead nine horses into this mile and a half Grade One. The Todd Pletcher trainee has won four of his last six races, and only finished outside of the money in one of those last six. He’s a legitimate favorite, certainly, but the two, Point of Entry, is undoubtedly worth a look. A winner of three straight – four of his last five – Point of Entry has never finished beyond fourth. In terms of how the race will be run, Expect Turbo Compressor to go to the lead. If he’s pressed at all, Point of Entry could be the horse to come from mid-pack to score the win. If he’s allowed to relax, however, the rout may very well be on. The Chad Brown trained Center Divider is a solid third choice.
Saturday – Grade 1 Alabama: I believe it was Kool & The Gang who once sang that on Ladies’ Night your name will be seen – that you can fulfill all your dreams. Such will be the case for one of the seven three year old fillies who will take to Saturday’s starting line – lead by the Tony Dutrow trained Grace Hall. This Javier Castellano mount has lost only three times in her eight race career, never finishing beyond third. Without question, she’s a just favorite, but will not be without competition. Such challengers will be headlined by the six, Questing, who won the Grade 1 American Oaks in impressive fashion opening weekend. The only of the seven who will look to make the lead, Questing should settle comfortably at the front – meaning that if the track is favoring speed, she’ll be tough to beat. With this McLaughlin trainee on the lead, expect the one, Sea Island, long-shot Uptown Bertie, and Grace Hall to sit close. The form will hold until they turn for home, at which point the pace could very well be the decider. If Questing has been pressed, Grace Hall should romp. If she’s been allowed to relax, expect a tough duel through deep stretch.
Sunday – Grade 2 Lake Placid: Rounding out this weekend’s action will be this mile and an eighth turf race. Stephanie’s Kitten and Centre Court will take the six horse field to the post; likely, they’ll be the two to lead the field to the wire as well. Stephanie’s Kitten – who will carry John Velazquez on Sunday – has raced eight times in her career, winning four times and never finishing beyond fourth. Her neighbor in the starting gate – and likely on the morning line – Centre Court boasts similar numbers; with three wins in six starts – and two places and a fifth rounding out her record. Though she’s raced on the turf only once in her career – over a year a go – Disposablepleasure could be the pair’s toughest competition. She’s posted top four finishes throughout her career – which includes six graded stakes. There’s no definite speed here, so expect a tight knit pack around the track with a crush of horses turning for home sniffing around the lead. In the end, I’ll take Stephanie’s Kitten or Centre Court to make it there first in an exciting cap to the weekend action.