The Alabama Stakes usually offers 3-year-old fillies a chance to do what 3-year-old colts will do a week later, namely race at a demanding 1 ¼-mile, classic distance at Saratoga. Only this year, due to revised racing schedules, it’s no longer ladies first.
The guys received their chance to travel 10 furlongs around the Spa last weekend in the Runhappy Travers Stakes, and now on Saturday, the fillies will meet at the same 1 ¼-mile distance in a race that could prepare some of them for another important Grade 1 stakes three weeks from now in the Longines Kentucky Oaks. Meanwhile, for all of them, the Alabama will be their first – and probably only – chance to prove themselves at a demanding mile-and-a-quarter distance and the ability to handle the 10 furlongs seems certain to decide the outcome. Longer term, the Alabama is also a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Longines Distaff held in November at Keeneland at 1 1/8 miles.
1. Envoutante (8-1): An uncoupled stablemate of the favored Swiss Skydiver, she was third in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes, her first try in a Grade 1. She has yet to win a stakes but she should like the distance and would benefit if her stablemate sets a brutally fast pace. There are certainly things to like if the price on the toteboard is right.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz TRAINER: Ken McPeek
2. Spice is Nice (3-1): Take away a poor effort behind Swiss Skydiver in the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks and she’s a major threat. A nice bounce-back win in her most recent start and breeding that indicates she should thrive at the distance bodes well for her chances and makes her an intriguing play in this field.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
3. Crystal Ball (9-2): Trainer Bob Baffert thought enough of her to ship her to the Spa off an easy maiden win at Santa Anita Park and she responded with a strong effort while losing by a head in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. He kept her in New York to await the Alabama but she has early speed and if she butts heads with Swiss Skydiver, she, like Baffert’s Uncle Chuck a week ago in the Travers, may not have much left in the final furlong.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano TRAINER: Bob Baffert
4. Bonny South (8-1): She made a name for herself with an impressive win in the Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks but then didn’t fire in the Central Bank Ashland and finished fourth. She gets Irad Ortiz Jr., which can help her take a step forward, and the extra ground figures to help her cause. If she can duplicate her performance at the Fair Grounds, she’ll be a major force here.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr. TRAINER: Brad Cox
5. Swiss Skydiver (1-1): A worthy favorite who enters in great form. She tackled the boys in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and finished a game second to Art Collector, who will probably be the second choice in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. She won three straight graded stakes against fillies before the Blue Grass and she’s definitely the one to beat. The big question mark is the distance, which could be the great equalizer.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione TRAINER: Ken McPeek
6. Harvey’s Lil Goil (10-1): She woke up on turf last time, winning the Regret Stakes, but her race in the Fantasy Stakes against Swiss Skydiver was awful. If you can write that off as just a bad day at the office, she has some intrigue in his field. Otherwise, look elsewhere for a winner.
JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado TRAINER: Bill Mott
7. Fire Coral (30-1): She’s never been closer than eight lengths behind the winner in her two starts in graded stakes and will need a lot of things to work out in her favor to be a threat here. Actually, it’s a real lot of things.
JOCKEY: Rafael Santana Jr. TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
THE PICK: Bonny South
LIVE LONGSHOT: Bonny South