Lady Joanne and Calvin Borel take Alabama by a neck.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Lady Joanne and Calvin Borel take Alabama by a neck.
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Lady Joanne Wins Alabama Thriller

Lady Joanne won by a neck over Lear's Princess in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

Entering the 127th running of the Alabama (gr. I) (VIDEO), all the talk was about Octave, the Todd Pletcher-trained filly who had won consecutive grade I races in New York this summer. One of those victories came over Lady Joanne by just a half-length in the Mother Goose (gr. I)  after a long and grueling stretch duel.

This time, as the fillies entered deep stretch, Lady Joanne was not to be denied. The daughter of Orientate, out of Oatsee, held off not only Octave on the rail, but a determined Lear’s Princess on the outside, to win by a neck in a heart-pounding finish on Saratoga’s main track Aug. 18.

Trained by Carl Nafzger and bred in Kentucky by Bentley Smith, Lady Joanne came into the Alabama with quite a résumé of her own, having won both the Dogwood Stakes (gr.III) and the Banshee Breeze Stakes at Saratoga July 30. The 3-year-old filly had won five of eight lifetime races for Smith, yet betters let her go off as the third betting choice, behind co-favorites Octave and Panty Raid.

Lady Joanne, ridden by Calvin Borel, paid $11.00, $5.30 and $3.20. She ran the 1 1/4-mile in a final time of 2:03.62.

Said Nafzger: “Calvin just rode an unbelievable race. Last time he ran against Octave, she had us inside. This time, we had her inside. It was a tight hole, but it was a good hole. We weren’t far back; we were right there on top of them. It was just a matter of holding off the 6-horse (Lear’s Princess).

“(Lady Joane) just keeps stepping forward every race. This was the kind of race she was supposed to step forward like she did. I’ll probably run her in the Spinster at Keeneland (Grade 1, October 7). The way we’re going now, we’ll definitely go to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Monmouth Park, Oct. 27).”   

Longshot Tough Tiz’s Sis set the pace through the first three-quarters (1:11.34), with Folk and Lady Joanne just off the pace. Octave saved ground in fourth as they approached the final turn. When they straightened out for the stretch drive, Borel moved Lady Joanne to the front, also taking her to the rail. The move seemed to bother Octave, who was charging hard on the inside and was revved up for a move to pass the leader. All the while, Lear’s Princess, ridden by Eibar Coa, was coming on the outside.

But Lady Joanne, a half-sister to grade III winner Baghdaria, stubbornly held her ground in the front of the pack, as Octave could not get by on the rail. In the final 50 yards Borel urged his filly just enough to hold off Lear’s Princess, who finished a neck in second. Octave was a length-and-a-half back in third.

There was a stewards' inquiry into the stretch run, when it appeared that Lady Joanne may have shut off Octave on the hotly-contested rail. The result eventually stood.

“This is unbelievable," said Borel. "It’s like a roller coaster ride. If these two horses (Street Sense and Lady Joanne) stay sound, they may be the best horses right now. This filly has turned it around like night and day. She didn’t break well. She ducked in as soon as the gate opened. We settled down and went off from there. Down the lane, she switched leads at the last jump before the wire.”

The exacta (7-6) paid $57, while the trifecta (7-6-4) earned $177.

Panty Raid, also trained by Pletcher, was never a factor, finishing fifth.

(Chart, Equibase)