Facing some heat in the form of familiar faces and new foes, Coaching Club American Oaks (I) winner Stopchargingmaria hopes to join some of the few who have won back-to-back Saratoga wins at the same meet— Spring to the Sky being the first and currently only horse to win two stakes this year. But Maria ain’t alone: Bill Mott sends three of his fillies after the romping winner of the Oaks with many other hot trainers in pursuit of Todd’s top filly as she stretches out to 10 furlongs.
This race has been handicapped for a fast track, with some rainfall in the forecast for Saturday.
$600,000 Alabama Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, August 16 at 5:20pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Unbridled Forever - Rosie Napravnik, Dallas Stewart - The well-bred filly struck with seconditis, Unbridled Forever gets the rail spot and a jock switch from Albarado to Napravnik. She made up ground last out to Stopchargingmaria in the CCA Oaks, but was still a distant 2nd. She worked well and may benefit from more ground and almost certainly with the jockey switch. Fill your exotics.
2) Miss Besilu - Jose Lezcano, Bill Mott - The Medaglia d’Oro filly returns from an even third-place finish in the CCA Oaks, running 9 lengths behind the winner. She has done marginally worse since being switched off the Gulfstream Park main. While bred for the distance, her finishes have been less than inspired. Her best bet is to ride a hopefully speed-favoring rail if it plays out that way all day— she’s a longshot pick to win if it does.
3) America - Irad Ortiz Jr, Bill Mott - The A.P. Indy filly hasn’t seen much of the front in recent races, with just 2 shows in 5 starts this year and was 4th by 12 lengths last out in the CCA Oaks. Johnny V drops her to ride Stopchargingmaria for absentee Castellano, but she does pick up red-hot jock Irad Ortiz and gets blinkers. Mott hopes the blinkers will help her refocus, and the distance added on ought to appeal to her. A.P. Indy-line horses seem to do well at Saratoga. She got a little hot at the Oaks last out, so look again here to pick up the pieces if the track does not favor speed too much.
4) Joint Return - Kendrick Caramouche, John Servis - The Include filly sports 4 wins in 7 starts this year including 2 stakes wins and was 2nd last out in the Del Mar Oaks (II) to Fortune Pearl. Her “bad” starts are largely excusable and don’t suggest a problem horse. She can make a winning move off tiring leaders to win. Servis adds blinkers and has a positive ROI for first-time blinks. Upset potential.
5) Got Lucky - Jose Ortiz, Todd Pletcher - A.P. Indy/Deputy Minister pairs well to win routes, and Got Lucky has already won an allowance here at ‘Toga this meet with 2 wins and 2 places in 5 starts this year. With the added distance, she can likely move up some more. Toddster adds blinkers. A bargain bin Pletcher bet, Got Lucky is apt to improve 2nd-off-the-layoff with the Toddster sporting great returns for horses in this stage. I like her better than Maria.
6) Fortune Pearl - Trevor McCarthy, Graham Motion - A quietly good filly, the daughter of Mineshaft has been off the board just once in her lifetime 7 starts with a best performance yet last out in the Del Mar Oaks (II), which she won by 2 lengths over Joint Return. Trainer Motion is very good at this meet thus far with a positive return in graded stakes. I anticipate she will only get better with another furlong.
7) Catch My Drift - Joe Bravo, Chad Brown - The Pioneerof the Nile filly is lightly raced with 2 back-to-back wins summing up her career, with the last one coming at Monmouth by daylight and both from off-the-pace. A promising lass, she will have a lot to contend with stepping up in class. Keep her in your thoughts for another day.
8) Stopchargingmaria - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - The Tale of the Cat filly seeks her third straight graded stakes win hot off the CCA Oaks (I) and Black-Eyed Susan (II) feats. She is likely to be the favorite, with Johnny V taking over while showing 2 wins in 3 starts at Saratoga. She will break from an outer post while stretching out a sprinter pedigree. I don’t like her here.
9) Size - Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott - Mott ships in Claiborne’s talented First Samurai filly who just finished holding off Ria Antonia in the Iowa Oaks (III). Before winning that, she won 3 6-furlong races, and will stretch her speed out again here. Stepping up in class from the outermost post, Size is the lone speed of the race but is not suited for an easy race in this spot. Kind of tough to back her talented self in this race and at low odds.
Top 3 Picks in Order (with acceptable odds)
1) Fortune Pearl (6-1)
2) Joint Return (10-1)
3) Got Lucky (6-1)
I like all three fillies way more than anyone else in the field. Fortune Pearl will probably like more ground and is at top form right now and will likely fetch great odds in this race despite those credentials. Joint Return is another excellent filly who just needs a little more luck to catch a break and could pop the cork here… the talent is there, she did beat Vero Amore as a juvenile and she gets an inner post for once. I like Got Lucky still! She’s getting back to her old self and should like the distance plenty. I’ll give America another shot if I had to mention a 4th horse here.
Value Pick: Fortune Pearl (6-1 or better) is a steal. Take her while you can!