Jeffrey L. Nielsen's Island Fashion, a lights-out winner of her last start, proved it wasn't a fluke Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, romping home in the $750,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies, denying Spoken Fur's bid to sweep the New York Triple Tiara.
Ridden by John Velazquez for slumping trainer Barclay Tagg, who saddled Island Fashion for the first time, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Petionville was a drawing away winner by about six lengths over Awesome Humor, who edged Spoken Fur for second by about a half-length. The final time for the 1 1/4-mile Alabama on a fast track was 2:05.
Spoken Fur, ridden by Jerry Bailey for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Amerman Racing Stable, was unhurried early while racing in mid-pack, offered a brief bid at the top of the stretch to get into second place, but made no impression on the run-away winner and faded late.
So Tagg and Island Fashion spoiled Frankel and Amerman's bid for a $2 million bonus, which Spoken Fur could have won, two months after Frankel and Empire Maker spoiled Tagg and Sackatoga Stable's shot at a $5 million Triple Crown bonus in the Belmont with Funny Cide.
``If you want to bring up irony, I guess there is irony there,'' Tagg said. ``She was already a made horse when I got her and she ran beautifully.''
Spoken Fur had won the previous two legs of the New York filly triple crown known as Triple Tiara series – the Mother Goose (gr. I) by 5 1/4 lengths at Belmont June 28, and the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont July 19 by 3 1/2 lengths. She was the 4-5 favorite in the field of six Saturday.
Island Fashion dueled with early leader Awesome Humor early through fractions of :23 4/5 for the opening quarter-mile and :48 2/5 for the half before edging to the front after six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 and the mile in 1:37 4/5. As they straightened away for the stretch run, 8-5 second choice Bird Town eased into contention briefly before falling back, replaced briefly by Spoken Fur, who also tired.
``It was perfect,'' said Velazquez. ``Only one horse got out to the lead and we just waited in a comfortable position. I just let her do whatever she wanted.''
``She was real slow up front,'' Frankel said of the favorite. ``This wasn't a good trip for her. She just didn't fire.''
Halory Leigh finished fourth, followed by local favorite Bird Town and Fircroft in front of a crowd of 36,137.
Bird Town, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and the Acorn Stakes (both gr. I), was a disappointment.
``She just had no punch,'' trainer Nick Zito said. ``She is still a wonderful filly who had never run a bad race.''
Island Fashion tallied her first graded stakes win in her last start, the Delaware Oaks (gr. III), by 6 1/2 lengths on July 19 for former trainer Nick Canani. A day after the victory, Tagg took over as trainer of the Everest Stables filly.
At the time, Tagg said Nielsen ``has wanted to send her to the Alabama all along, and I don't put them in any race to lose.''
Her other win from six career starts came in the WinStar Sunland Oaks in March.
The victory, worth $450,000, nearly doubled her career earnings to $917,970.
Tagg, suffering through a tough summer with an ill Funny Cide doubtful for the Travers Stakes, had ended a 40-race losing streak with a maiden winner earlier in the week.
``This filly is very impressive,'' Tagg said. ``But she probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Funny Cide.
``I thought I was very lucky and fortunate to get a chance to have her for this race. This is an awesome race to win and I couldn't be any happier.''
Sent off at 8-1, Island Fashion paid $18.60, $8.80 and $2.30. Awesome Humor returned $12.20 and $2.40. Spoken Fur's show was $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $175.50.