After winning consecutive grade I races, It's Tricky has earned the title as leader of the 3-year-old filly division. On Aug. 20, the daughter of Mineshaft will have to prove herself all over again against a stellar field in the $500,000 TVG Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Owned by Godolphin Racing, It’s Tricky defeated Plum Pretty and Royal Delta in the July 23 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Saratoga and will take on those two rivals once again. In addition, she will do battle with Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious and the improving St. John's River, recent winner of the Delaware Oaks (gr. II).
A field of six was drawn for the 1 1/4-mile Alabama, the feature on Saratoga’s 11-race Saturday program. Post time is set for 5:45 p.m. EDT.
NBC will offer a live telecast of the Alabama, with coverage airing from 5-6 p.m.
It’s Tricky has won five of six career starts, her lone setback coming in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) in April. The bay filly romped by 3 3/4 lengths in the Belmont Park mud June 11 in the one-mile Acorn Stakes (gr. I) for her first graded stakes victory, and ran down Plum Pretty by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/8-mile CCA Oaks.
She has recorded two Saratoga works since that race, including a four-furlong move in :48 4/5 Aug. 13.
Eddie Castro, aboard for the last two wins, will retain the mount for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. It’s Tricky, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, was bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable and is out of the Tale of the Cat mare Catboat.
Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty has finished a close second in her two starts since winning the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by a neck over St. Johns River. The Medaglia d'Oro filly was beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) June 25, and led most of the way in the CCA Oaks before being collared late.
The bay filly, who is listed as the 2-1 second choice, has worked three times at Saratoga for Bob Baffert. Martin Garcia will ride the Pennsylvania-bred, who is 3-2-2 from seven starts.
“I think with having training here over the surface now the last three weeks, we’ll be in better shape,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to Baffert. “I think it’s kind of hard coming in right off the plane on this track and she ran huge, she ran a winning race, she ran her eyes out, but I think we’re in better shape this time.”
Palides Investments N.V.’s homebred Royal Delta missed some training time before the CCA Oaks and may have been a little short when beaten 7 1/4 lengths while third. The Bill Mott trainee has had two works at Saratoga since that effort, the first one on turf.
Mott considered running the Empire Maker filly in the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 21 but decided against it. “We may switch to the grass later on, in a grade I perhaps," he said.
Royal Delta won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) by 2 1/2 lengths May 20 at Pimlico Race Course and has won three of five starts overall.
Donver Stable’s Inglorious is the only Alabama entrant that has traveled 1 1/4 miles, and she did it successfully June 26 when defeating Canadian-bred males in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. The Hennessy filly also won the Woodbine Oaks and is a stellar 5-1-0 from seven career tries.
Trainer Josie Carroll won the 2009 Alabama with Careless Jewel, also for Donver Stable.
“She ran several hard races right in a row and the timing (of the Alabama) was right,” said Carroll, who bypassed the second two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. “She ran well enough (on dirt) in New Orleans, and I certainly wouldn’t bring her if I didn't think she had a chance. (The distance is) one less thing to worry about; I know she’ll get 1 1/4 miles.”
Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River has never missed the board in six lifetime starts. After finishing a close second in both the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and Kentucky Oaks, she finally came out on the right side of a close finish in the July 9 Delaware Oaks. The daughter of Include has worked steadily at Saratoga for her Alabama test.
"She absolutely belongs with these horses,” trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. said. “She’s training really well, and in every race she has run, she has run a good race. The (extra distance) is what I want as she has been coming from behind.”
Rounding out the field is longshot Pinch Pie, winner of the Desert Vixen Stakes July 24 at Monmouth Park for trainer Tony Dutrow.
$500,000 Alabama (gr. I, Race 10, 4:45 p.m. EDT), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Royal Delta (KY), J Lezcano, 121, W I Mott, 6-1
2. Pinch Pie (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, A W Dutrow, 15-1
3. Plum Pretty (PA), M Garcia, 121, B Baffert, 2-1
4. It's Tricky (KY), E Castro, 121, K P McLaughlin, 9-5
5. St. John's River (KY), R Albarado, 121, A Leggio Jr., 5-1
6. Inglorious (ON), L Contreras, 121, J Carroll, 6-1