Sometimes things work out well in the end.
Owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown did not get a chance to run Dunbar Road in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, but 3 1/2 months later time healed that wound on a day at Saratoga Race Course that took a soggy turn.
The young, inexperienced filly that was the second choice in the Kentucky Oaks but did not have enough qualifying points to run made up for that setback Aug. 17 when she stormed to an impressive 2 ¾-length victory over Point of Honor in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, the midsummer complement to the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
“Right after the race,” Brant said following Saturday’s stakes, “Chad told me she would have won the Kentucky Oaks.”
Judging by what happened in the Alabama, it’s hard to dispute that contention.
“Peter’s a very patient owner and he said he thought this was more of an Alabama horse,” Brown said, “He was right.”
While the Kentucky Oaks would have been just the third start for a 3-year-old daughter of Quality Road, in just her fifth start Dunbar Road handled with supreme class the rigors of a grueling 1 ¼-mile distance on a sloppy track while rallying at least six wide on the final turn before drawing clear in the final furlong.
“Somebody asked me why did I buy two Quality Road fillies last week at the [Fasig-Tipton] Saratoga sale,” Brant said. “This is why.”
The victory was the fourth in five starts for Dunbar Road, who was exiting a 2 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park.
“Chad did a great job training her from a mile and a sixteenth [in the Mother Goose] to a mile and a quarter. That’s not an easy thing to do,” Brant said.
While the Kentucky Oaks is a significant prize for any horseman, living in Connecticut and having his stable based in New York for much of the year gave Brant additional satisfaction from winning the Alabama for the first time since Spit Curl prevailed in 1983.
“I was happy we didn’t go to the Oaks because I thought that was really too much, too soon,” Brant said. “Chad liked her so much in that race, but when you’re a New Yorker, winning the Alabama is very special.”
For Brown, it was the first Alabama victory for the three-time Eclipse Award winner, and he credited his barn crew for their work in turning the daughter of Gift List, by Bernardini, into the winner of a prestigious Grade 1 stakes in a little more than 5 ½ months of racing.
“Our team has done a great job with her. Her exercise rider, Kriss Bon, has done a terrific job with her and he gets along very well. He’s worked her just about every time,” Brown said. “I always thought she had the potential to run in these types of races and win.”
While some might believe Saturday’s victory put Dunbar Road atop her division, others might wonder if she’s the best 3-year-old filly in Brown’s barn, since he also trains the undefeated, 3-for-3, multiple Grade 1-winning Guarana, a Ghostzapper filly who will race next in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes Sept. 21 at Parx Racing.
“Dunbar Road and Guarana are very close. I think Guarana’s best distance is up to a mile and an eighth and Dunbar Road showed today she can run farther than that. We’re in a fortunate position to have both fillies in the barn,” said Brown, who was uncertain of future plans for Dunbar Road.
Dunbar Road, who was bred by Jeffrey J. Drown in Kentucky and purchased for $350,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale from the Indian Creek consignment, has now earned $587,900 with four wins and a second in five starts.
The conditions for the Alabama took a dramatic turn in the previous race at Saratoga as a severe rain and thunderstorm hit the Spa during the running of the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes, which turned the main track sloppy and delayed the start of the race by about 11 minutes.
Champagne Anyone, who kept Dunbar Road out of the Kentucky Oaks by beating her in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, dueled with Ulele for the early lead through quarter-mile fractions of :48.97 and 1:13.43, but leaving the quarter pole a string of horses surged past them.
Point of Honor moved five wide for the lead entering the stretch, with Street Band rallying inside of her, but Dunbar Road, who rallied widest in the field of eight, flew past them approaching the quarter pole and drew off under a well-timed ride by Jose Ortiz, who collected a third-straight Alabama win.
“I was a little wide but I didn’t want to be a hero and try to split horses. I felt like I had a lot of horse. She’s special. We knew the mile and a quarter would help her,” Ortiz said. “My goal is to go to the Hall of Fame, and to go to the Hall of Fame I have to win these types of races.”
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson’s Racing’s Curlin filly Point of Honor, the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes winner who was second to Guarana earlier in the meet in the Coaching Club American Oaks, took second by a nose over Street Band.