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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – With no one to block her this time, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s homebred Elate broke free of her foes and dominated Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
In her last appearance, the Grade 1 CCA Oaks, Elate moved well along the rail and appeared to be gaining ground on Abel Tasman, but Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith moved over and closed the door on Elate before she could pull alongside the eventual winner. With no Abel Tasman in today’s race, jockey Jose Ortiz had free rein to show what she could do.
“Ever since the first day I got on her in the morning, we thought she was going to be a really nice filly,” Ortiz said. “She won by 12 lengths first time out, and then she went a little bit off form. I’m glad she put herself together. I was in good position the whole time and it worked out. I feel like we could’ve won both (the CCA Oaks) and today, but I’m glad it worked out here.”
California shipper It Tiz Well jumped to the lead and set fractions of :23.46, :46.96, 1:10.92, and 1:35.87 while Ortiz began slowly inching Elate forward through the far turn. Exiting onto the front stretch, the Bill Mott trainee surged forward, taking the lead and never looking back while driving off to complete the 1 1/4-mile main track event in 2:02.19.
“It looked like we were going to be a little bit wide going through the first turn,” said Mott. “It looked like when he left the 1/2-mile pole, he moved her into contention and she had dead aim on them by the time she reached the 1/4-pole.”
Some 5 1/2 lengths back, It Tiz Well held on for second, just holding off a late rally from Salty by a head. After trailing well behind the field through the first half of the race, Actress ran home late to take fourth. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion New Money Honey didn’t take well to the dirt and was never a factor before finishing fifth. Lockdown, Mopotism, and Canadian champion Holy Helena completed the order of finish.
Unchained Melody dropped back sharply halfway through the race and was eased by jockey Joel Rosario before being vanned off, but trainer Brian Lynch said afterward that she appeared to be fine and had no soundness issues following a post-race inspection.
“I had to keep asking her to just hold my position and she was there, and at one point, she wasn’t,” Rosario said. “Everybody was getting away from me. She was steady, just didn’t want to do it. After that, I just had to pull her up and make sure she was OK. She was feeling fine physically. I don’t know, she just got tired. I don’t know what happened.”
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Elate’s win was her first graded stakes victory to go with a second in the CCA Oaks and a third in the Grade 3 Honeybee. She improved her overall record to 8-3-3-1, with her only off-the-board performance coming in the Grade 1 Ashland in April, when she was pulled up in the stretch and eased off for a DNF.
“It was more of a forward type of race for her (today),” Mott said. “She finished well and she’s got a nice burst of speed and she stays on well.”
Elate returned $10.60 to win, $6 to place, and $4.20 to show. It Tiz Well brought back $13.40 to place and $7.80 to show, while Salty paid $4.50 to show.
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