Though the Alabama Stakes (G1) lost a little luster when Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Believe You Can was given a break from training, a strong field of 3-year-old fillies has assembled for the 132nd running of this 1 1/4-mile race.
Much of the focus will be on Godolphin Racing’s Questing, speedy winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in her last start. The daughter of Hard Spun, who started her career in Europe as a very consistent turf filly, is undefeated since Kiaran McLaughlinswitched her to the dirt and paired her with young jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Among the fillies who will be looking to turn the tables on Questing are the two who rounded out the CCA Oaks trifecta—Zo Impressive and In Lingerie. A gray or roan daughter of Hard Spun, Zo Impressive has never been worse than second in her six-race career and seems to appreciate every additional furlong she can get.
QUESTING ROMPS IN CCA OAKS
Both her and In Lingerie are quirky in their morning routines: they gallop well, but their workouts aren’t flashy like you would expect from two top-class fillies. In Lingerie’s last drill was a solo move in :48.70, with a nice but average :23.80 through the lane, according to Grade1Racing.com. The Todd Pletcher trainee will be reunited with John Velazquez, under whom she’s won her best races, including a stellar effort in winning the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2).
The morning-line favorite is Grace Hall, who returns to the site of her only Grade 1 victory. The versatile filly prefers to be on or near the lead and enters this race off a series of strong workouts at Delaware Park. This will be her second race back following a freshening after a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (G1): she took the Delaware Oaks (G2) beating fellow Alabama contender Via Villaggio last out.
A daughter of the graded stakes-winning mare Hoh Buzzard, Via Villaggio ships back to the East Coast off four slow but steady maintenance workouts at Del Mar for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Also shipping in, but from Churchill Downs, is the Steve Margolis-trained Uptown Bertie. Winner of the Iowa Oaks (G3) last out, the dark bay or brown filly by More Than Ready is looking for her third straight victory, but she has yet to face a field as talented as this.
Rounding out the field is the filly on the rail: Sea Island. Though she is stepping up into Grade 1 company for the first time, the Phipps Stable homebred soundly beat 2011 Kentucky Oaks runner-up St. John’s River in her last start. The rail draw should help the Pulpit filly, who has run well on the lead but tends to get hung wide. When a conservative trainer like Shug McGaughey lets one of his horses roll in :48.20, he’s not only sharpening their speed, but signaling readiness.
$600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1)
Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, 5:46 p.m. EDT
3-year-old Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Sea Island (KY), J. Rosario, C R McGaughey III, 12-1
2. Zo Impressive (KY), R. Maragh, T Albertrani, 5-1
3. Grace Hall (KY), J. Castellano, A W Dutrow, 7-5
4. Uptown Bertie (KY), C.J. Lanerie, S Margolis, 20-1
5. Via Villaggio (KY), C.S. Nakatani, J Hollendorfer, 8-1
6. Questing (GB), I. Ortiz, Jr., K P McLaughlin, 5-2
7. In Lingerie (KY), J.R. Velazquez, T A Pletcher, 6-1
All carry 121 pounds.