Top competitors will be out in full force Aug. 18-19 at Saratoga Race Course for the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I), $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT), and $200,000 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid (gr. IIT). As usual, top trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a posse.
The 3-year-old filly division, headed by Brereton C. Jones' Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) heroine Believe You Can, remains strong with four grade I winners probable for the 1 1/4-mile Alabama. Godolphin Racing's Questing, winner of the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I); Live Oak Plantation's Zo Impressive, the Mother Goose (gr. I) victress; and Grace Hall, whose grade I win for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and The Elkstone Group came at the Spa in the 2011 Spinaway (gr. I), are among those listed as likely by New York Racing Association stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.
Pletcher said he will saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' In Lingerie, third as the favorite to Questing in the July 21 CCA Oaks.
"In Lingerie has trained well since her last race," he said of the Empire Maker filly. "We believe the 1 1/4 miles will suit us well."
In Lingerie won the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) at Turfway Park in March and the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico Race Course on May 18 prior to the Coaching Club. She will have her final serious breeze for the Alabama Aug. 12, Pletcher said.
In addition to In Lingerie, graded winners Uptown Bertie and Via Villaggio also are likely for the Alabama, along with Sea Island, who successfully stretched out to 1 1/8 miles to take an optional claimer at the Spa on July 26.
In the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer, Phipps Stable's homebred Point of Entry —a son of Dynaformer who will enter the race off a 3 1/2-length victory in the July 14 Man o' War (gr. I) at Belmont Park—is expected to put his three-race win streak for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey on the line against United Nations (gr. I) winner Turbo Compressor .
With his intimidating speed, the 4-year-old ridgling Turbo Compressor has developed into one of the dominant turf runners in the country for Pletcher this year. Fresh off a gate-to-wire romp in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations last month at Monmouth Park, he'll attempt to race farther than he ever has before for owners P and G Stable and Off the Hook LLC.
The Florida-bred son of Halo's Image sold for a modest $22,000 at the 2010 Ocala Breeders' Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He has since won $920,960 and has been at his most formidable on the front end, also taking the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs earlier in the year.
Pletcher sees the stretch-out in the Sword Dancer within reach.
'It simply depends on pace scenario, but he continues to handle the increases in distance we've been offering, and he appreciates being on the lead," he said. "It's not only his ability to show speed, but he relaxes once he's there."
Also expected for the Sword Dancer are Brilliant Speed and Tahoe Lake, with Ioya Bigtime questionable.
In addition to Turbo Compressor in the Sword Dancer, Pletcher will saddle Medolina and Disposablepleasure in the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Aug. 19. Sophomore fillies racing 1 1/8 miles in this event are expected to include G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.'s Centre Court and Darley's Better Lucky, the top two finishers in the July 25 Lake George (gr. IIT). Also probable are Colonial Flag, Medolina, Somali Lemonade, and Stephanie's Kitten.