The Alabama Stakes is the longest Grade 1 dirt stakes for 3-year-old fillies that you’ll find and a highly important steppingstone to the division championship.
While Malathaat seemed a cinch to earn the division’s Eclipse Award a little more than a month ago, her loss to Maracuja in the Coaching Club American Oaks added an element of doubt – and also added quite a bit of spice to the Alabama when they will meet again, this time at a classic distance of ground at Saratoga Race Course.
1. Crazy Beautiful (6-1 morning-line odds): Won the Delaware Oaks by six lengths in her last start, but that race has lost some of its luster over the years. At her best, she can be a factor here, but when she faced probable favorite Malathaat in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, she finished 10th. That was also her lone race past 1 1/16 miles, making her a big question mark at the distance.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
2. Will’s Secret (15-1): She was third to Malathaat in both in the Kentucky Oaks and Central Bank Ashland Stakes. She flopped as the favorite in the Indiana Oaks, but maybe she didn’t care for the surface. She’s training nicely at Saratoga and could rebound with a big effort at a nice price.
JOCKEY: Jon Court; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
3. Clairiere (6-1): She took on Malathaat in the middle stages of the Coaching Club American Oaks and paid a price for it, tiring in the stretch to finish third. She should get a better trip here and while she’s a good bet to finish in the superfecta (she’s never finished worse than fourth), this seems a tough spot for her to post a victory.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
4. Maracuja (7-2): She sprang a 14.70-1 upset in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and outside of a seventh in the Kentucky Oaks, she certainly had the credentials to be a contender. She was helped by the way Clairiere pressed Malathaat in the CCA Oaks, but the added distance should help her here. Once again, she figures to be the main threat to the favorite.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Rob Atras
5. Played Hard (15-1): She’s won impressively in allowance and maiden races in her last two starts, but she’s facing much, much tougher competition and probably lacks the seasoning to be a be factor in the final yards.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Philip Bauer
6. Malathaat (even-money): The “Graveyard of Champions” caught up with her in the Coaching Club American Oaks but she should move forward off that effort, especially since she hadn’t raced in more than 2 1/2 months. She figures to benefit from the conditioning gained in that race and figures to get a better pace scenario here. Just like the CCA Oaks, she looks like the one to beat.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
7. Army Wife (6-1): Will get an acid test here after winning the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. She should be fine at the distance and is on kind of upswing that makes her impossible to overlook in this spot. This will be her first try in a Grade 1 stakes, but she seems ready for it.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Mike Maker
THE PICK: Malathaat
LIVE LONGSHOT: Will’s Secret
River Bend Farm Inc., Austin Musselman & Janie Musselman