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The feature race for the nation’s top 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama, will go off as the 9th race on a loaded 10 race Saturday card at Saratoga. The race is traditionally run at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.
Turf superstar New Money Honey has four wins and a runner-up finish in six starts and will be going for her third Grade 1 victory in as many starts to headline a nine-horse field. The Chad Brown trainee will be returning to the Spa for the first time since finishing second in her first start in September 2016, an effort that she parlayed into a maiden-breaking win in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo and a 1/2-length score in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to cap her 2-year-old year.
“I’m excited about trying her on the dirt; this filly has been training super,” Brown said. “It’s something I’ve always thought about; running her on the dirt now seems like the right time to try it. The distance of the race should really suit her.”
Unchained Melody will make her Saratoga debut off of an impressive 3-length win in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on July 1 at Belmont Park. The Smart Strike filly has breezed four times on the Spa’s main track since shipping from Belmont, preparing for her first start of longer than 1 1/16 miles.
“She needed to get over this track to get used to going a mile and a 1/4,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “If she improves again, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
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Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle a pair of entries looking for their first respective graded stakes wins after numerous close finishes in Lockdown and Elate. Mott seeks his third Alabama victory to join Royal Delta in 2011 and Sweet Symphony in 2005.
Lockdown finished second to Unchained Melody in the Mother Goose, building on a third-place effort in her first career Grade 1 when she finished behind Daddys Lil Darling and winner Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5. The Juddmonte Farms’ homebred has finished on the board in all six career starts, going 2-3-1, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Gazelle on April 8 at Aqueduct.
Lockdown breezed a bullet 4 furlongs in :47.98 over the Oklahoma training track on Tuesday in her final work before Saturday.
“She went fine, went really good,” Mott said. “She went nice and galloped out well. We’ve entered her, and it will be a tougher group, but we’ll see what happens.”
Elate also finished second to Abel Tasman in a Grade 1, finishing 3 1/4-lengths behind in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at 1 1/8 miles at the Spa. Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Elate is 2-3-1 in seven starts, winning the Light Hearted on June 15 at Delaware Park.
#1 New Money Honey – I’m probably crazy for liking this horse as much as I do in this spot. However, Chad Brown had to know the quality horses that were pointing towards this race, so I have the utmost confidence that she will take to the dirt course just fine for this one. This horse has also won at a mile and a 1/4, which is a critical factor when analyzing this field. She is most likely an all-or-nothing type of play. If she takes to the dirt, she will have a big chance, but if she doesn’t, she might run midpack at best. I’ll stick with the motto of “In Chad We Trust” because it hasn’t been letting me down lately.
# 7 Elate – I debated making her my top pick because I’ve always liked her, even though she’s really let me down for most of the year. Last time out in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, though, she finally showed her real self and nearly defeated the nation’s top 3-year-old filly, Abel Tasman. In fact, many people believe that she was actually the best horse in that race, and Abel Tasman should have been disqualified and placed second. Regardless of that outcome, if she can bring that race again, she will have a massive chance to win, and I think that the distance is something that she will relish.
#4 Lockdown – I liked her the best in the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes last time out, but she stumbled at the start and spotted the winner, Unchained Melody, too many lengths. I came away pleased with the effort, though, as she still finished second. If she stumbles again, then it will be more of the same, but with a cleaner trip, I think that she can turn the tables on Unchained Melody. The distance might also turn things in her favor as well. She’s an interesting prospect that you at least have to play underneath, but I will play her on multi-race tickets as well.
#2 Holy Helena – You have to love when a horse has already gone a mile and 1/4, and not only has Holy Helena done that, she WON at a mile and 1/4 last time out against the boys in the Queen’s Plate. All of that is very good news, but there’s some bad news as well. First, the Queen’s Plate is just for horses bred in Canada, so this field will be tougher than what she faced last time out. Next, the Queen’s Plate is run on synthetic. Although she does have a win on the dirt, it was not quite as impressive as her wins over synthetic. Still, she’s in this one with a big time shot.
#5 Unchained Melody – She showed last time out that she is tremendously talented and could end up being the controlling speed in the race. I’m skeptical about her getting the mile and 1/4 effectively, but her early speed should allow her to have the ability to make her own trip on the front end. If many of her rivals also hate going this distance, she could get out in front and be hard to catch. For the that reason, she’ll be on most of my tickets, despite the cause for concern with the distance.
#6 Salty – I’m not sure I can take another excuse from this horse. Don’t get me wrong, her excuses are always legit, but they seem to happen EVERY RACE. Her previous start in the Coaching Club American Oaks was another perfect example: she stumbled out of the gate and spotted the field a few lengths. She always seems to recover and run well, but not well enough to make up the ground lost caused by bad breaks. Plus, I think she might be a little bit better going shorter as opposed to the classic distance. I’ll let her beat me for top honors.
#3 It Tiz Well – She seems like a logical underneath horse and shouldn’t mind the longer distance. She really is more of a “grind it out” type of filly, which has me worried that she can’t hang with some of the fillies that have a big turn of foot. However, last time out, she did win the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, and she also had another Grade 3 win in the Honeybee Stakes earlier in the year. She’s an honest, hard-trying horse.
#8 Mopotism – Finishing second last out in the Indiana Oaks, she suffered an horrendous trip. This is going to be a tough horse to bet for many people because she looks to be overmatched compared to nearly everyone else, and she’s also coming in from the west coast to face many hometown horses. However, if you look at her running lines, she has about as much class as any of these horses, and she’ll be double the price. Many horses are going to offer value here, but if you MUST bet a double-digit horse, this one makes the most sense.
#9 Actress – The only throw out in the race is the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner! That just shows you how tough this race is because this horse winning is not impossible. The last time that I had only one throw-out in a race, it was Girvin in the Grade 1 Haskell, and we all know how that turned out.
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