Alabama Stakes Set for August 15 at the Spa


The year 2020 will be the only time the Travers has been run before the Kentucky Derby and the only time The Alabama has been run before the Kentucky Oaks.

By Art Parker

Like the Travers Stakes, the Alabama Stakes is one of the great historic races held annually at Saratoga. Like the Travers it is run at 1 ¼ miles and usually one week before it. This year the Alabama will be run on August 15th, a week after the Travers due to COVID-19 rescheduling. The Alabama is restricted to three year old fillies.

walking horse through Saratoga crowdThe Alabama was first run in 1872 making it one of the oldest races for females in America and the longest continuously run stakes race for three year old fillies. The race is named in honor of William Cottrell of Alabama. The race is named in honor of the Confederate Captain who was heavily involved with thoroughbred racing and breeding before and after his service in the Civil War. When approached by the Saratoga Association in 1872 about having a race named in his honor, he declined and requested the race instead be named for his home state of Alabama. Cottrell used his activity in racing to help and mend relations between the North and the South after the Civil War.

While the Kentucky Oaks stands as the female version of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Alabama is the female edition of the Travers Stakes, which is open to all 3-year-olds at Saratoga.

The great filly Go For Wand set the stakes record in 1990 for the Alabama at 2:00 4/5 minutes.

Jockeys Jorge Velasquez, Jerry D. Bailey and Mike Smith have all won five Alabama Stakes.

Many great fillies have won the Alabama such as:  Elate, Songbird, Royal Delta, Silverbulletday, Heavenly Prize, Sky Beauty, Open Mind, Shuvee, Gamely, Vagrancy and Beldame to name a few.

Only four fillies and have ever won the Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama Stakes: Open Mind, Make Sail, Princess of Sylmar and Blind Luck.

The year 2020 will be the only time the Travers has been run before the Kentucky Derby and the only time The Alabama has been run before the Kentucky Oaks.

The purse for the 2020 Alabama is $600,000.

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2018 Alabama Stakes Notes

Piedi Bianchi will take a major step up on Saturday as she gets set to make her second start of the year in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies, said trainer Todd Pletcher on Thursday.

Owned by Nice Guys Stables, Madaket Stables, Jack Bick, and Jay Oringer, the Indiana-bred filly by Overanalyze was originally entered in the Indiana First Lady for state-breds at Indiana Grand on Wednesday as well as Thursday’s eighth race at the Spa, a one-mile allowance optional claiming event, before her connections opted for the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1.

Piedi Bianchi was Grade 1-placed as a 2-year-old, finishing second to Moonshine Memories in the Del Mar Debutante, and third in the Chandelier last fall under the tutelage of California-based trainer Doug O’Neill. She closed out her year with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was beaten 5 ¾ lengths by eventual champion Caledonian Road, and a third-place finish to Dream Tree in the Grade 1 Starlet in December.

She subsequently moved east, making her debut for the Pletcher barn in a six-furlong allowance race on June 24 at Belmont Park. In that effort, the gray filly raced wide and made up ground late, but couldn’t catch the top two and finished third by four lengths.

“I thought her comeback race was probably better than it looks on paper and we feel like this is a race we want to take a chance in,” said Pletcher.

“My concern is always that we’re going from one race off a layoff to a mile and a quarter,” he added. “She was one of the better 2-year-old fillies on the West Coast and she’s trained consistently well since we’ve had her, so hopefully we have her fit enough for the assignment.”

Piedi Bianchi was an $80,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase last year, and boasts $244,700 in earnings with a 1-2-3 record from seven starts. At 15-1 on the morning line, she will be ridden in the Alabama by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the rail.

Stewart confident in homebred Alabama starter Auspicious Babe

Rock Ridge Racing’s homebred Auspicious Babe will be giving up plenty of experience to the rest of the field in Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles while making just her fourth career start for trainer Dallas Stewart.

“Why not? Just five or six other horses, and a mile and a quarter,” Stewart said. “Has any of them run that far before? I think mine can. It’s a Grade 1, and it’ll make the whole family. It’s the same thing like Unbridled Forever, same thing like Lemons Forever. You win one Grade 1 and it makes the whole family. The people that have the mare, have her [Auspicious Babe]. They have a farm, why not?”

Auspicious Babe debuted on May 4 after missing her 2-year-old season due to an ankle injury. She tired after a half-mile in her unveiling and remained towards the back of the pack throughout the one-mile maiden special weight.

The bay Kentucky-bred returned 23 days later and closed from mid-pack to break her maiden by 1 ¾ lengths against seven others at 1 1/6 miles. She returned over a month later and bested another field of seven scoring by a length at the wire after sitting a close stalking trip against conditional claimers.

“She was impressive the last two races,” said Stewart. “She’s a big, strong filly and I think she can go that far [1 1/4 miles]. She won the second time and I was like, ‘Let’s try [the Alabama]. I think she can go that far.’

“It’s really worth the shot. [If] she gets beat, we’ll take her back and run her somewhere else. Regroup,” he added. “She’s just big and strong and she finishes a race. She’s finished her last three races good at Churchill, that long stretch, she took them and got it done. I feel good about her.”

Source: NYRA