2020 Alabama Stakes Cheat Sheet

Racing
Swiss Skydiver, shown training at Churchill Downs in early August, headlines Saturday’s Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. (Coady Photography)

Saturday’s $500,000 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is one of the most prestigious races for 3-year-old fillies in North America and is a true test of stamina. Held at 1 ¼ miles, it is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff Nov. 7 at Keeneland Race Course. Past winners include all-time greats such as Beldame, Maskette, Top Flight, Vagrancy (via disqualification), Gamely, Shuvee, Life’s Magic, stakes record-setter Go for Wand, Silverbulletday, Royal Delta, and Songbird.

The 140th Alabama Stakes drew a field of seven fillies, headlined by Grade 1 winner Swiss Skydiver, and will be televised live on NBC as part of their Road to the Breeders’ Cup series, starting at 5 p.m. ET. The Alabama Stakes will also be shown on NYRA’s “Saratoga Live” broadcast. For more information on TV/radio coverage, click here.

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Read on for information on each Alabama Stakes starter.


1. Envoutante (8-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owners: Walking L Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $125,748

Earnings per start: $20,958

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Enchante, by Bluegrass Cat

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Her name translates to “bewitching” in French and appropriately so, since she’s the daughter of a mare name Enchante. Envoutante’s father is Uncle Mo, who happens to be having quite a strong year as the sire of horses like Uncle Chuck, Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner King Guillermo and last week’s Runhappy Travers Stakes runner-up Caracaro, to name a few. Envoutante is in search of her first stakes win after finishing third in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes in July at Keeneland. Prior to that, she’d scored victories in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park and an allowance at Churchill Downs. She would have to take a big step forward to contend with the likes of Swiss Skydiver (who’s actually her stablemate in the Ken McPeek barn) but she certainly seems to have the pedigree and the right rider to do it. Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard, and he’s won this race three consecutive years, on Elate in 2017, McPeek-trained Eskimo Kisses in 2018, and Dunbar Road last year.

Bet Envoutante in the Alabama Stakes.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

2. Spice Is Nice (3-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Robert and Lawana Low

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $106,080

Earnings per start: $26,520

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Pedigree: Curlin – Dame Dorothy, by Bernardini

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This filly sold for over a million dollars as a yearling in 2018. Once she made it to the races, expectations were high and she has gone off as the favorite in three of her four career starts. After winning by 12 lengths in her debut at Gulfstream Park, she returned in the Davona Dale Stakes in late February. She fought to the wire but was turned away by Tonalist’s Shape (a filly who was undefeated the time). Spice Is Nice came up short again in her next stakes try, the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks, where she finished more than 10 lengths behind winner Swiss Skydiver. Though she won an allowance race at Belmont Park in her most recent start, Spice is Nice will have to prove that she can hang with this level of stakes competition. Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Alabama in back-to-back years with Princess of Sylmar in 2013 and Stopchargingmaria in 2014. Hall of Fame jockey was aboard Stopchargingmaria; he has also won two other editions of the Alabama, on Yanks Music in 1996 and Island Fashion in 2003.

Bet Spice Is Nice in the Alabama Stakes.


3. Crystal Ball (9-2)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: WinStar Stablemates Racing

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $106,000

Earnings per start: $35,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Malibu Moon – Deja Vu, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This California-based filly made a splash when she won her second career start in June at Santa Anita Park. She posted a 97 Equibase Speed Figure while leading from start to finish and winning by more than six lengths. Trainer Bob Baffert was so impressed that he shipped her East to run in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last month. Though she didn’t break alertly in the race, Crystal Ball showed the early foot she’d flashed previously and was quick enough to again get to the lead early. However, she was hounded the entire way by Paris Lights. That forced jockey Javier Castellano to stay busy on Crystal Ball throughout. Instead of throwing in the towel, Crystal Ball fought Paris Lights all the way to the wire and ultimately lost by just a head. Given the fact that there doesn’t appear to be an overwhelming amount of speed in this year’s Alabama Stakes, Crystal Ball may have a tactical edge on some of her competition. However, if Swiss Skydiver turns the heat up early, it might be just too much for Crystal Ball to sustain in what will be only her fourth career start. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has won three editions of the Alabama, with Pine Island in 2006, Princess of Sylmar in 2013, and Embellish the Lace in 2015. Bob Baffert’s sole Alabama win to date came 21 years ago in 1999 with Hall of Famer Silverbulletday.

Bet Crystal Ball in the Alabama Stakes.


Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

4. Bonny South (8-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $343,350

Earnings per start: $68,670

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Pedigree: Munnings – Touch the Star, by Tapit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Juddmonte Farms homebred improved in three consecutive victories dating back to last year and topped out with a 100 Equibase Speed Figure in her late-running score in the Fair Grounds Oaks in March. One of her three victories came via disqualification and another one of her wins saw her again rally into a very hot pace back in February at Oaklawn Park. Things didn’t entirely go her way in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland last month where she sat off an uncontested pace and three other horses (including highly-regarded race winner Speech and third-place Envoutante, who returns in the Alabama) ran 1-2-3 all the way around the track. Bonny South finished fourth and will be looking to bounce back from that effort on Saturday. As always, she’ll be dependent on the pace heating up in order for her to grab a placing late. Trainer Brad Cox is in search of his first Alabama Stakes victory. Jockey Irad Ortiz won the 2012 Alabama Stakes aboard Questing, one of his early breakthrough graded stakes victories that set Ortiz on a path to his current reign as a dual Eclipse Award winner.

Bet Bonny South in the Alabama Stakes.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

5. Swiss Skydiver (1-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Peter Callahan

Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $677,980

Earnings per start: $84,748

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Daredevil – Expo Gold, by Johannesburg

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This filly has been on such a roll – racking up win after win in the 3-year-old female division – that her connections decided to run her against the boys in July in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Swiss Skydiver was sent off as the favorite in the race and hardly disappointed. She ran a gutsy second to Art Collector (a top Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospect who came back to win the Ellis Park Derby last weekend) and, in the process, Swiss Skydiver earned enough points to make the Derby starting gate at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5. While her team has been non-committal about Swiss Skydiver making a run for the roses, they haven’t entirely written off the possibility that she might again face males – potentially even in the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3. Prior to the Blue Grass Stakes, Swiss Skydiver coasted to victory in three straight graded stakes, highlighted by back-to-back Equibase Speed Figures of 104 and 108 in winning the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the Santa Anita Oaks. Swiss Skydiver will be the clear favorite in the Alabama Stakes and could give trainer Ken McPeek his second win in the race. He previously won the Alabama with Eskimo Kisses in 2018.

Bet Swiss Skydiver in the Alabama Stakes.


Elsa Lorieul/NYRA Photo

6. Harvey’s Lil Goil (10-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: Estate of Harvey Clarke and Paul Braverman

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $154,529

Earnings per start: $30,906

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Pedigree: American Pharoah – Gloria S, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A daughter of American Pharoah, this filly has won stakes races this year on both the dirt and turf. In February, she easily handled five other horses in the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct, winning that race by 7 ½ lengths. Due to track closures and limited options for her next start, Harvey’s Lil Goil didn’t race until three months later when she shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Fantasy Stakes. She finished 11th in the race, nearly 18 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver, but in her defense she had to take up several times into the first turn and was ultimately forced into a wide trip. Harvey’s Lil Goil redeemed herself in a big way when she returned to win the Regret Stakes on the turf at Churchill Downs in June. If she can pull off what would qualify as a mild upset over Swiss Skydiver on Saturday, Harvey’s Lil Goil would give Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his fourth win in the Alabama Stakes. Mott has previously won the race with phenoms Sweet Symphony (2005), Royal Delta (2011), and Elate (2017).

Bet Harvey's Lil Goil in the Alabama Stakes.


Coady Photography

7. Fire Coral (30-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Susan Moulton

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $133,980

Earnings per start: $22,330

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 89

Pedigree: Curlin – Coral Sun, by A.P. Indy

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Following back-to-back wins to kick off 2020, this Curlin filly may have actually run her best race when she finished fifth in her third start of they year, the Fantasy Stakes. Shortly after the race began, she clipped heels and nearly fell. Amazingly, she not only recovered and continued racing, Fire Coral closed to finish fifth from so far off the pace that she wasn’t even on the screen for a large portion of the race. She’s made mild closing moves in her two most recent starts but it hasn’t been nearly enough to get her in the mix for win honors. In fact, her last three Equibase Speed Figures (67, 80, 83) are well below what she’ll need to be competitive with most of the other runners in this race. Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. are both in search of their first win in the Alabama Stakes.

Bet Fire Coral in the Alabama Stakes.

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