Sweet Home Alabama

The 140th running of the $500,000 dollar, Grade 1 Albama Stakes drew a field of seven 3-year-old fillies who will try the mile and a quarter distance for the first time.

In addition to the purse, the Alabama also offers Kentucky Oaks qualifying points (100-40-20-10) for the top four finishers.

Any fillies going from this historic Saratoga race to the first Friday in September at Churchill Downs will do so with only 20 days between starts but will cut back in distance to a mile and eighth.

The race also serves as a Win and You’re In qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which is scheduled to be run at Keeneland on November 7th.

The Alabama is race 9 on a card of 11 with a scheduled Post Time of 5:45.  Here then is a look at the field along with Morning Line odds.

1.  ENVOUTANTE  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Ken McPeek.  Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Translated from French, envoutante means bewitching.  She was last seen running a steady 3rd in the Ashland Stakes (G1).  She Won an Allowance race at Churchill while rallying from off the pace going two turns, but she has also been successful racing on the lead.  Trainer McPeek Won the Alabama in 2018 with ESKIMO KISSES with Jose Ortiz riding.  Ortiz has won this historic race the past three years.
2.  SPICE IS NICE  [ML 3-1]  Trainer: Todd Pletcher.  Jockey: John Velazquez. She broke her Maiden in a first-time effort at Gulfstream Park by 12 lengths. She was 2nd in the Davona Dale (G2) and then got overwhelmed by SWISS SKYDIVER in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).  She had a brief freshening and came back to Win a Belmont Park Allowance easily by running close to the pace.  Pletcher has two previous Wins in the Alabama in 2013 and 2014.
3.  CRYSTAL BALL  [ML 9-2]  Trainer: Bob Baffert.  Jockey: Javier Castellano.  She has been spending the summer at Saratoga, where she set the early pace in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and lost a battle by a head in the nine furlong race at the wire to PARIS LIGHTS.  She stayed at the Spa to train for the Alabama.  She will need to carry her speed an additional furlong, which may be a challenge.
 4.  BONNY SOUTH  [ML 8-1]  Trainer: Brad Cox.  Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.  She was an impressive Winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in March by more than two lengths after rallying late.  She then ran 4th all the way around the track in the Ashland (G1). Since then, she has been training at Churchill Downs.  For what it’s worth- the Cox barn has been very cold at Saratoga, Winning at an uncharacteristically low 13%.
5.  SWISS SKYDIVER  [ML 1-1]  Trainer: Ken McPeek.  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. This gal has dominated the 3-year-old filly division with three front-running Graded-Stakes Wins in a row, including a Win on the West Coast.  She then took on the boys in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) losing only to ART COLLECTOR.  The only minor snag in the parachute may be the distance.
6.  HARVEY’S LIL GOIL  [ML 10-1]  Trainer: Bill Mott.  Jockey: Junior Alvarado. This daughter of AMERICAN PHAROAH has Won three of her last four starts.  She, like others in this field, ran into SWISS SKYDIVER and did not do well that day.  She has been training at Saratoga since June.  Mott has three previous Wins in the Alabama in 2017, 2011 and 2005.
7.  FIRE CORAL  [ML 30-1]  Trainer: Steve Asmussen.  Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. She did her best running in the winter at Oaklawn Park, where she broke her Maiden and then came right back to Win an allowance on the front end.  Since then, she has not run well against tougher competition, including two Grade 3 Stakes.

Summary: A common betting angle says to play against a favorite trying something new, whether it is a change in surface, distance or track configuration.

SWISS SKYDIVER tries to stretch out to 1¼ miles for the first time.  Last month at Keeneland, she gave up the lead to ART COLLECTOR and settled for 2nd in the nine-furlong Blue Grass Stakes (G2).

Is that loss a sign of distance limitations for the 3-year-old filly?  When looking to beat an odds-on favorite one looks for cracks in the armor.

HARVEY’S LIL GOIL on the other hand, has a blood-line that is loaded with stamina.  She is a 3-year-old daughter of AMERICAN PHAROAH out of the TAPIT mare GLORIA S. Based on those first two sire names alone, she shows plenty of stamina influence.

SWISS SKYDIVER is the best horse on paper, but the slight fade last time out and 1¼-mile distance give some pause for concern.  In her defense, she lost to one of the top 3-year-olds in ART COLLECTOR and still defeated 11 other male horses.

The Play:   The Daily Racing Blog will do a Trifecta and Superfecta Key Using the #6 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL on top of #1-2-3-4-5.  Along with Win Bets on the #4 and 6.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.



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