SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – When trainer Kenny McPeek’s Eskimo Kisses cut the corner and straightened home, it was game over for everyone else, and the filly took off with a flourish to earn her first graded score in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.
Breaking well from post 2 under Jose Ortiz, Eskimo Kisses soon took back to the rear and settled far off the rest of the field while Talk Veuve to Me set blazing splits of :22.52, :46.79, and 1:11.86. Finally catching the field as they entered the far turn, Eskimo Kisses quickly picked off foes while running wide, then sharply cut the edge of the far turn and emerged onto the front stretch suddenly in the lead. Continuing to run on strongly, Eskimo Kisses drew off powerfully, hitting the wire with a 6 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 2:03.22 for the 1 1/4-mile event over a main track surface rated good.
“I just followed instructions and did what Kenny told me to do,” said Ortiz, who won his second straight Alabama. “Take her back, let her take me to the 1/2-mile pole, and then let her do the rest. I tried to stay inside as long as I could. She was there for me every time I asked her to move up and I’m just very happy with the way she ran today. I was going to be back there regardless, no matter (what) the fractions up front were, because those were the instructions. She’s a really nice filly, she deserved it.”
She’s a Julie split Talk Veuve to Me and her 6/5-favored stablemate Midnight Bisou to take second late by a neck, with the latter edging the pace-setter for third by another neck. Coach Rocks wasn’t too far behind when she crossed in fifth, but the rest of the field was. Piedi Bianchi, Auspicious Babe, and Figarella’s Queen completed the strung-out order of finish.
Eskimo Kisses’ win improved her record to 10-3-4-0 and was her first since taking two straight at Oaklawn back in February. Her bankroll now stands at $698,935 for her ownership group of Gainesway Stable, Harold Lerner, Andrew Rosen, Nehoc Stables, and Magdalena Racing.
“She’s a big, late-running type,” McPeek said. “She’s a filly that likes a little heavier going, and I think it was that today, and she went a mile and 1/4. I told Jose to sit on her a certain way and we couldn’t control what fractions they gave us, we just had to hope it unfolded for us. We love these kinds of races and it’s an honor to get horses that can compete in them.”
Eskimo Kisses returned $20 to win, $8.30 to place, and $4.10 to show. She’s a Julie brought back $7.40 to place and $4.10 to show, while Midnight Bisou paid $2.40 to show.