The 138th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes will be held this Saturday at Saratoga. Carded as the day’s ninth race with a competitive field of eight runners, the race will be joined by the Grade 2, $300,000 Lake Placid as the highlights of the Saturday card. Local post time for the race is set for 5:40 PM ET.
Headlining this year’s version is the Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bisou, who is coming off of a second-place effort over this track last time out in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. The Midnight Lute filly hasn’t finished worse than third in 8 career starts, which include victories in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes, the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes, and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, all while under the care of California-based trainer Bill Spawr. Asmussen took over training duties after Midnight Bisou ran third in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, crossing the wire behind Monomoy Girl and the Grade 1 Travers Stakes-bound Wonder Gadot on May 4.
“The filly has consistently done extremely well and we’re obviously very excited about her chances,” Asmussen said.
Talk Veuve to Me looks to be the classy Midnight Bisou’s biggest challenger after easily winning the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks last time out. The filly has finished first or second in all 5 starts. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset has campaigned her beautifully up to this point, having progressively moved her up in distance. She drew post 8 for this race and will once again have jockey Julien Leparoux aboard.
“We can’t be overconfident, (but) you look at the numbers, the replays, and the PPs, and we’re right there,” said Brisset, who co-owns Talk Veuve to Me with Team Valor International and Stephen McKay. “She deserves a shot. Last time, (she) was very impressive going for the first time around two turns, so if she can replicate that race and do it going a mile and 1/4, it could be an interesting race. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to ride her for the last six months; I breeze her all the time and I know the filly pretty well. She could actually be a better filly going around two turns.”
The field from the rail out: Piedi Bianchi, Eskimo Kisses, Midnight Bisou, She’s a Julie, Auspicious Babe, Figarella’s Queen, Coach Rocks, and Talk Veuve to Me.
#3 Midnight Bisou – Last time out had to be a bit disappointing for her connections. She looked primed to take down Monomoy Girl in the CCA Oaks, but she was never competitive with the eventual winner at any time in the race. There is no Monomoy Girl here, though, which makes Midnight Bisou the clear standout. She has been the second-best horse in this division all year long, and if she shows up with her best effort, then she will once again pick up a big victory. The mile and 1/4 distance will be a question mark, but it is for nearly everyone in the field. Since moving to the Asmussen barn, she has shown versatility, and that is something that should help her in a race like this one.
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#8 Talk Veuve to Me – Brisset has been blessed with a couple of really nice horses in his first year going solo as a trainer, and this horse is certainly one of them. Last time out, she dominated her rivals to win her first graded stakes in the Indiana Oaks, but before that, she was the runner-up to both Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes and Mia Mischief in the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes. The distance seems to be her only question mark, but her breeding suggests that she should be able to handle it. She is a major threat to the top choice.
#2 Eskimo Kisses – Under normal conditions, I always put this horse as an “Exotic Play,” but this particular race is different. The distance should really play in her favor, and the pace seems like it could set up fairly well for a closer. We already know that this filly is classy enough to win a race like this, as she has competed with the best in her division all year long. Her strategy here will be the same as always: drop to the back of the pack and make one big run in the end. The conditions will have to set up perfectly for her to get a win, but this time, they might just be.
#4 She’s a Julie – She is coming off of a big victory last time out at Prairie Meadows in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks. That was her second win in a row, as she also defeated allowance foes at Churchill Downs prior to that score. This will be a solid jump up in class for her, but she should compete fairly well with these types of horses. Since winning the Iowa Oaks, she has worked well at Saratoga, which earned her this shot. She can make some noise underneath at a decent price.
#7 Coach Rocks – If you believe that Red Ruby could have won this race, then you somewhat have to believe in Coach Rocks. She finished second to Red Ruby in each of her last two starts, but the bad news is that she was never really close to winning, especially last time out in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks when she was defeated by 13 lengths. However, this filly has faced tough competition all year long, so this field is not going to intimidate her. Her works have been very solid since arriving to Saratoga, too, so she is doing well heading into the race. If she likes the distance, then she could pull off the upset.
#6 Figarella’s Queen – This versatile filly can run well on both turf and dirt. Her last two races were over the latter, having picked up an allowance win at Churchill Downs before finishing second in the Indiana Oaks. However, she was never really competitive with the winner in that race, so she will need to show some improvement if she wants to compete for the top prize here.
#1 Piedi Bianchi – Trainer Todd Pletcher scratched her out of a small Indiana-bred race to run in this much tougher spot. At Indiana Grand, she would have been a heavy favorite, but here, will likely be one of the bigger prices on the board in this race. She ran in several tough races as a juvenile while never embarrassing herself, but she was only third in her 2018 debut against allowance foes at Belmont Park. She must improve here.
#5 Auspicious Babe – Trainer Dallas Stewart is no stranger to running horses at big odds and doing well with them. This filly has won two straight coming into the race, but now she moves up to stakes company for the first time. Her speed figures don’t match up all that well with many of these horses, but this is the next logical race for her to enter after winning a maiden and an allowance at Churchill Downs.