The "giant killer" did it yet once again. Trainer Allen Jerkens sent out Society Selection to upset heavily favored Ashado in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) Saturday at Saratoga.
Ashado, based on her win in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) in the mud at Belmont in her last start, was sent postward at 3-5. But it was the 5-1 shot Society Selection who came from off the pace over the sloppy, sealed track to win the 10-furlong Alabama.
Society Selection, bred in Kentucky by her owners, Irv and Marjorie Cowan, also had won her last start in the mud, the Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. That race, however, was at seven furlongs.
Society Selection, who is by Coronado's Quest out of the Dixieland Band
mare Love That Jazz, has won five of 10 starts. She was also a grade I winner last year, winning the Frizette.
Susan's Angel made the early lead, but was followed very closely by Yearly Report and Ashado. John Velazquez had Ashado on the outside of her rivals as they went a half mile in :47.23. The stayed in the same order through six furlongs in 1:11.42 and then Ashado moved to the lead as Stellar Jayne moved into contention in second.
But after a mile in 1:36.43, Cornelio Velazquez had Society Selection moving strongly on the outside and she went by the top two for the win. She ran the distance in 2:02.70.
Society Selection paid $13.40, $6.30, and $2.70, while Stellar Jayne was worth $8.70 and $2.80. Favored Ashado paid $2.10 to show.
"It looked a little hairy there for awhile," Jerkens said. "It looked like she was losing a little ground. She seems to like it better when she is outside, for some reason. She'll tuck in for a while, but when she makes her move, she wants to be outside. You're always surprised when you win a grade I, especially with a longshot. It's got to put her in the mix (for 3-year-old filly champion). That's what you try for, and that's what Mr. Cowan wanted. Most of the things you do in this game turn out good by accident. We've got to see how she comes back and how she does in the fall."
Jerkens said it was owner Cowan's suggestion to run the filly in the Alabama.
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of runner-up Stellar Jayne, said: "We caught a horse who had an affinity for the racetrack. I didn't like the condition of the track, since it rained this morning. She really hasn't trained well on it. But I can't make any excuses for her. Society Selection was a legitimate filly coming into the race. I thought she ran her eyeballs out. It was a good race, and you can't win them all."
Todd Pletcher, trainer of third-place finisher and beaten favorite Ashado, said: "We were close to the pace, as we anticipated we would be. They were running along, but it concerned me the way the track was changing throughout the day. It was becoming a little bit of a tiring track. She handles an off-track fine. This was a little bit of a different off-track. She prompted some pretty fast fractions, and she got a little tired. I don't know what you do from here. The calendar is so screwed up at this point. The Gazelle (grade I, $250,000, Saturday, Sept. 11, Belmont Park) comes back too soon; the Beldame is too late and it's three weeks before the Breeders' Cup (Oct. 30, Lone Star Park). Everything is positioned exactly where you wouldn't want it to be to get to the Breeders' Cup. We'll assess all the options."