First Six from CCA Oaks Back for Alabama

(from Saratoga report)
Pine Island could very well turn out to be the best 3-year-old filly racing in Saturday's running of the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Even though she lost as the 6-5 favorite to Wonder Lady Anne L in the July 22 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont Park over a muddy track, Pine Island showed a lot in only her fourth career start that day.

Coming off a fast-closing second in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) behind division leader Bushfire, Pine Island appeared to be the horse to beat in the Oaks. But Wonder Lady Anne L pressed early fractions in the 1 1/4-mile race, opened up a clear lead in the stretch, and was able to hold her rival off.

After the Oaks loss, trainer Shug McGaughey thought there was only room for Pine Island to improve since she is lightly raced and is still working through some maturity issues.

"I'm hoping she's learned something off her last two races and can put it all together here," McGaughey said. "She made a couple of immature mistakes in both races that may have cost her the win."

McGaughey thinks the Alabama distance may help his filly. He should know; he's won three runnings of the historic race, first held in 1872.

"She won her only start around two turns in her first start," McGaughey said, referring to a turf victory at Gulfstream in March.

McGaughey has won the Alabama three times, with Classy Cathy (1986), Versailles Treaty (1991), and Heavenly Prize (1994).

It appeared as though Wonder Lady Anne L was not going to make the Alabama after suffering through a cough. Fortunately, the cough cleared up and she was able to post a solid six-furlong work in 1:14 Monday. After carefully monitoring her after the work, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. decided to put her back in the Alabama mix.

Adieu has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, but after winning the July 15 Delaware Oaks (gr. II) at that distance, trainer Todd Pletcher thinks last year's Spinaway (gr. II) winner deserves a chance in the Alabama.

"That was also her first start around two turns," he said.

The key for Adieu getting a mile and a quarter will be how well she is able to settle in the early stages.

"If she relaxes as nicely as she did in the Delaware Oaks, I don't think the distance will be a problem," Pletcher said. "She's trained well over this track and won the Spinaway here last year, so the surface shouldn't be an issue."

Pletcher will also saddle Unbridled Belle, who ran sixth in the CCA Oaks, but previously had managed back-to-back wins at Delaware, including a score in the Go for Wand.

Lemons Forever, the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner, finished fourth in both the Mother Goose and CCA Oaks. Her come-from-behind style may not have been beneficial in the Mother Goose or Oaks and getting back around two turns in the Alabama could help.

Pyramid Love has run all four career starts on turf and will try dirt for the first time in the Alabama. She was last seen running a disappointing sixth in the Lake George (gr. IIIT) here July 28.

Teammate, winner of the Bonnie Miss (gr. II) at Gulfstream, has shown good tactical speed throughout her career, but has been fading lately in the stretch as she finished fifth in both the Mother Goose and CCA Oaks.

In addition to Teammate, trainer H. Allen Jerkens has also entered Miss Shop, a good third in the CCA Oaks, beaten only 2 ½ lengths.

Alabama Stakes (gr. I) 1 1/4 Miles, 3-Year-Old Filles, 121 Pounds, Post 5:20
Post Horse Jockey
1) Pine Island Javier Castellano
2) Wonder Lady Anne L Edgar Prado
3) Lemons Forever Mark Guidry
4) Ex Caelis Rafael Bejarano
5) Adieu John Velazquez
6) Teammate Cornelio Velasquez
7) Miss Shop Richard Migliore
8) Pyramid Love Julien Leparoux
9) Unbridled Belle Garrett Gomez