Going down the list of Alabama Stakes (G1) winners since its inception in 1976 is like reading a who’s who list of great fillies in racing. From Our Mims to Go For Wand and Sky Beauty, all the way up to Royal Delta and Songbird in more recent editions of the race — if you have a good sophomore filly in the barn, chances are the Alabama is your summer goal.
Hall-of-Famer Bill Mott has two chances to add a third Alabama win to his resume this year after having won the race in 2005 with Sweet Symphony and in 2011 with Royal Delta. Leading his duo is Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilscheider’s Elate, who finished a head back of four-time Grade I winner Abel Tasman in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in her last start. The daughter of top filly sire Medaglia d’Oro was one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) after a 12 ½ length runaway win in her debut last November, but those dreams were dashed after disappointing efforts in her first three starts this year, including being pulled up in the Ashland Stakes (G1).
While she wasn’t in the big race, Elate did run on Oaks Day, finishing second in an allowance affair on the undercard. She followed up that effort with an easy 5 ½-length win in the Light Hearted Stakes.
Mott’s other filly in the Alabama is the Juddmonte Farms-owned Lockdown. The full sister to Eclipse Award winner and five-time Grade I winner Close Hatches has yet to win at the graded stakes level. After breaking her maiden second-out in December, Lockdown took the Busanda Stakes by 2 ½ lengths in January. She then finished second in the Gazelle Stakes (G2) behind the 13-length winner Miss Sky Warrior. With that defeat, the daughter of First Defence entered the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks as a 37-1 longshot.
After a troubled trip in the slop at Churchill Downs, she rallied boldly up the rail to finish third, beaten just 2 ¼ lengths. In her next start Lockdown finished second to fellow Alabama entrant Unchained Melody in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2), with the step up in distance this weekend, Lockdown’s connections hope the tides will shift in their favor this time around.
One of the more interesting entrant’s in the race is e5 Racing Thoroughbred’s New Money Honey, who is trained by Chad Brown. What makes so interesting is the fact that the Alabama will be her dirt debut after running all six of her previous races on turf. A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, New Money Honey was second in debut last September before breaking her maiden next out in the Miss Grillo Stakes (G3). She followed up that win with a half-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf (G1) to close out her 2-year-old season.
New Money Honey was a disappointing sixth in her seasonal debut in the Appalachian Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, but has since rattled of wins in the Wonder Again Stakes (G3) and the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). The latter of those two was run at the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Alabama. While she lacks experience on dirt, a win at the distance and a pedigree suggestive of dirt certainly bolsters her chances.
Perhaps the most exciting entrant in the race is Stronach Stables’ Jimmy Jerkens-trained Holy Helena. After finishing a well-meant second in her debut in April, the daughter of Ghostzapper has rattled off three straight victories. In her only start on dirt, Holy Helena broke her maiden in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight affair at Belmont Park. Following that race she went north and took the Woodbine Oaks going 1 ⅛ miles and defeated the boys in the Queen’s Plate going 1 ¼ miles. Both of those races were run on a Tapeta track and restricted to Canadian-breds.
Hidden Brook Farm and Hare Forest Farm’s Unchained Melody has quickly progressed up the class ladder in just four career starts. Trained by Brian Lynch, the daughter of Smart Strike didn’t debut until March, but was an impressive winner at first asking at Gulfstream Park. Following that race, she was second in an allowance event at Keeneland, before winning against similar company at Belmont Park. With that win, Lynch saw it fit to put the filly into graded stakes competition, a move that came with reward when she rolled to an easy win in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2).
Rounding out the leading contenders is the Mark Casse-trained Salty, owned by Gary Barber, Baccari Racing Stable LLC and Chester Prince. After finishing second on debut for Ian Wilkes, she was transferred to Casse and produced convincing wins in a maiden race and the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2). Salty went on to finish a troubled fifth in the Kentucky Oaks. She has since finished second in the Acorn Stakes (G1) and third in the CCA Oaks (in both races she had trouble at the start).
Rounding out the field are the graded stakes winners It Tiz Well and Actress, as well as the multiple graded stakes-placed Mopotism.
Carded as the ninth race on Saturday’s Saratoga program, approximate post time for the $600,000 Alabama Stakes is 5:40 pm ET.