Talking Track: Alabama Stakes Recap
It was a gorgeous summer day at the Saratoga Race Course for the 131st running of the Alabama Stakes. The race was supposed to be the crowning of It's Tricky, the three year old filly who had already won two legs of the TVG Triple Tiara. However, Royal Delta stole the show and scored an emphatic victory.
The sun was out at Saratoga on Saturday - and boy did Royal Delta soak it all up. The filly was nothing short of phenomenal on this day, romping the field in The Alabama Stakes in what was a bit of a shock. When the odds appeared for the first time about half an hour before The Alabama an audible shock was let out by much of the crowd. The trendy pick that everyone liked at long odds, Inglorious, opened as the even money favorite.
That pretty much sums up my reaction. The should have been runaway favorite, It's Tricky, opened around an also shocking 5-1. It was stunning. Plum Pretty, St. John's River, and eventual winner Royal Delta were also at high odds. It seemed that the gambling public was in love with the filly who had just been named Canada's best horse. And they weren't the only ones. The talk around the paddock was all about the impressive look of the filly, and how if she could take to the dirt than this was her race. Even It's Tricky was left feeling like Rodney Dangerfield: No respect.
Inglorious, Royal Delta and It's Tricky each arrived in the paddock looking fit and strong, with It's Tricky being led in, as usual, just behind her show pony. As the minutes to post clicked down the odds began to level out. It's Tricky began to take more money, while Inglorious came back to earth...slightly. As they hit the track after the call to the post by Sam the Bugler, one thing was clear: The Saratoga patrons liked Inglorious and they liked It's Tricky...and not much else. It would be interesting to see how the race played out.
When the gates finally opened and the horses were on their way, it looked to be setting up exactly how you'd think. Plum Pretty raced to the early lead with It's Tricky hot on her heels. Royal Delta was right there as well, with Inglorious and St. John's River at the back of the pack. This form held for most of the race, though the backstretch held some serious surprises.
Most notably, the race was shockingly slow. The quarter clicked by in 24.5 seconds, with the half moving even slower, at 49.3. Also, Inglorious looked uncomfortable. The filly, who had raced mostly on synthetic surfaces, seemed as though she couldn't handle the dirt. The game had changed now. Plum Pretty was still on the lead and It's Tricky was still in second, but at such a slow pace could anyone catch them? Would they be able to hold off the late runs of well rested closers?
Into the final turn and approaching the top of the stretch It's Tricky began her move. She pulled even with Plum Pretty and looked poised to take the lead. But just as quickly as the re-match of the Coaching Club American Oaks had developed it was gone. Royal Delta came off the rail and like Keyser stinkin' Soze, she was gone. The slow pace was a mis-calculation that left the trailing runners too much gas in the tank. Royal Delta bombed past the front runners and with an almost reckless dive to the inside pulled away to a five and a half length victory.
And what a victory it was. After being well beaten by both It's Tricky and Plum Pretty in her last start, Royal Delta left them in her wake. It's Tricky finished second, Pinch Pie was a surprising third, Plum Pretty was fourth, St. John's River was fifth and the early favorite Inglorious lived up to her name, finishing an irrelevant sixth. But Saturday wasn't about anyone but Royal Delta. Finally clear of a foot injury, which interrupted her training before her last race, she was able to stretch out to a mile and a quarter and show that she is probably the class of her division.
Of the race, Royal Delta trainer William Mott said "She found her stride, she was relaxed, she was comfortable...[she] just kept drawing away from the field...it looked like a picture perfect ride [by jockey Jose Lezcano]." When he was finally able to see the race replay Mr. Mott said with an almost joking disbelief, "Boy she really did move away at the end didn't she. When she went past them it's like they shot her out of a sling shot." Of the filly herself he said, "We always thought she was a nice filly and she just proved us right all the time...I'm just glad to have her in my barn."
It was a coronation for Royal Delta on Saturday. If she's not at the top of the three year old filly class, she's certainly right there. What's next no one can be sure, but wherever she goes a crowd - and low prices - will be sure to follow. It was a decisive and emphatic win for the filly, who opened a lot of eyes with her performance - an excellent renewal of the Alabama Stakes and a great way to move us to within a week of next Saturday's Travers Stakes. Check back here during the week for more Talking Track and a preview of the Mid Summer's Derby.