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Post Time: Sweet Home Alabama

By Gene Kershner

The best 3-year-old fillies in the land will line up in the gate at historic Saratoga Race Course on Saturday afternoon before a national television audience (Ch. 2, 5 p.m.) in the Grade 1 $500,000 TVG Alabama Stakes. A key race in the division and a rematch of the two top finishers in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks (CCAO) during the meet’s opening weekend highlights the national racing scene on Saturday.

Horsephoto It’s Tricky will look to join five other fillies who have swept the Acorn, CCAO and Alabama to date. It’s Tricky held off the Kentucky Oaks champ Plum Pretty by three-quarter lengths at last month’s CCAO and she will be back to try and prevent her from donning the Triple Tiara.

It is a terrific group of fillies who have entered, including the winners of the Black-Eyed Susan, Queen’s Plate, Delaware Oaks and Desert Vixen. Inglorious (left), the Plate winner, decided to skip the final two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown specifically for this race. Luis Contreras will have the first Saratoga mount of his career on the Canadian-bred filly.

 The connections of Inglorious are no strangers to the Alabama. Owners Vern and Donna Dubinsky and trainer Josie Carroll won the 2009 edition of the race with Careless Jewel, who crushed the Alabama field that day by a massive 11 lengths. “She was a nice-looking horse,” recalled Vern Dubinsky of the purchase of Inglorious. “And she’s by Hennessy, who is the broodmare sire of Careless Jewel, which had a little bit to do with it.”

Here’s a look at all six fillies (Trainer, jockey, Oods in parentheses):

1 – Royal Delta (Mott, Lezcano, 6-1): The Black-Eyed Susan winner was beaten handily in the Coaching Club, but comes in second off the layoff for the Mott barn. The Empire Maker filly should not be challenged by the Classic distance of a mile and a quarter. She boasts a solid workout on Aug. 14 and should improve off her last effort.

2 – Pinch Pie (A Dutrow, J Velazquez, 15-1): She won her last two efforts on the grass and shifts back to the dirt and picks up Johnny V, who rode her down at Gulfstream over the winter. It would be a huge surprise if she hit the board amid this crew.

3 – Plum Pretty (Baffert, Garcia, 3-1): Beaten a neck in the Coaching Club, the Kentucky Oaks champ will be out to avenge that loss for trainer Bob Baffert, who loves the national TV spotlight. The added distance may be just what the doctor ordered. The pick.

4 – It’s Tricky (McLaughlin, Castro, 9-5): The Godolphin filly is aiming for the Triple Tiara, comes in third off the layoff, after a very sharp workout and should be the post time favorite. I’m going to try and beat her with the Kentucky Oaks 1-2 duo, but she must be respected.

5 – St. John’s River (Leggio Jr., Albarado, 5-1): Has the ability to hit the wire first. Her dam sire was also the sire of the Grade 1 champion Personal Ensign. She gave a game effort in the Kentucky Oaks, where she was coming after Plum Pretty late. The added distance may also help her. Looking for a big effort coming after her late closing effort to win the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks.

 6 – Inglorious (Carroll, Contreras, 6-1): The Plate winner has shown she can beat the boys, although a restricted race on polytrack. She faces an interesting test after eight weeks since her monumental win at Woodbine. Contreras is red hot, but this is Saratoga, and he’s definitely not in Kansas anymore. The pace scenario may not benefit Contreras’ late closing riding style, but she could catch a bottom piece of the exotics. Skeptical.

I look for Plum Pretty to hold off St. John’s River late with It’s Tricky fading in deep stretch. Inglorious and Royal Delta will try and close late but it will not be enough to crack the exacta.

Post Time outlook:

1 – Plum Pretty                                                                            

2 – St. John’s River

3 – It’s Tricky

 Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!

 Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.

Inglorious photo by Michael Burns Photography

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