Saratoga Diary: Old Meets New on Alabama Day

The classy black silks with cherry red cap of the Phipps Stable flooded under the finish line first in the Alabama Stakes on Saturday. And with the presentation of the trophy to family members in the winner's circle - beneath cloudy skies befitting the politics surrounding the racetrack - memories of the Vanderbilts, Mellons, duPonts, and Whitneys came rushing to the surface.

These days, NYRA is more Bowdoin than Yale and more Goldman Sachs than U.S. Steel; but for someone who has visited here for any length of time, the history of New York racing seems to be built on the shoulders of show horses, not on the muscle of working stock.

The two contrasting styles came together at Saratoga on Saturday, as the new bestowed honors on the old for the stellar achievement of a wonderful filly.

Shug McGaughey is the trainer who prepared Pine Island for the victory. It was McGaughey's fourth Alabama winner in a Hall of Fame career that features nine Breeders' Cup winners.

The handsome dark bay filly had finished second in her last two starts - two tries against the best of her sex and her age when she wasn't quite up to it. Nevertheless, rider Javier Castellano got the best from her this time, and she responded in kind.

Ironically, Castellano gave the spielkis to some big gamblers who bet on Pine Island at 6-5. He took his filly inside and out, covering more ground than the 1 ΒΌ mile race required, then weaved through some staggering horses before booting Pine Island, a daughter of Arch, home ahead of the front-running Teammate.

Close finishes keynoted a couple of other races on the card, and two-year-olds of note entered the spotlight for the first time with triumphs.

The Todd Pletcher-trained A.P. Arrow, who finished second by a neck in the Louisiana Super Derby (gr. II) nearly a year ago, beat out another stakes runner, Reverberate, by a neck in the third. Godolphin's Thought Leader beat Shadwell's Tawfeer and Unbridled Danger, owned by David Cassidy and Darlene Bilinski, in the blanket finish fourth.

Jack Wolf's Starlight Stable and Donnie Lucarelli came up with another fast 2-year-old. Sam P., a son of Cat Thief that's another student of Pletcher, defeated his competition easily in the seventh race. In a bit of daring-do, Cornelio Velasquez took to the rail in the stretch with Got the Last Laugh in another maiden special weight race for juveniles and prevailed.

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