Alabama Stakes Preview

Songbird Tries to Remain Unbeaten in Alabama Stakes

Six challengers will take a shot at undefeated champion filly Songbird Saturday at Saratoga in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes. The Grade I race will be the first time Songbird has attempted the 1 ¼ mile distance, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer believes she’s ready for the added distance.

“She’s trained well on every racetrack— Keeneland, Santa Anita, and Del Mar —she just trains well on any surface, Hollendorfer said. “Based on appearances and looking at her record on paper you’d have to think that she wouldn’t have any trouble getting a mile-and-a-quarter,” he said. “I firmly believe that if we had decided to run in the Delaware Handicap on the 15th (of July) instead of coming here and running in the Coaching Club American Oaks, we were fully prepared to go a mile and a quarter. I feel like an extra eighth of a mile should be right up her alley.”

Some analysts will disagree. Songbird has won all nine of her races, including eight graded stakes. But in her most recent win, she ran the final furlong of the Coaching Club American Oaks in a slow :13.54 seconds, and there can be a significant difference between winning at nine furlongs and winning at ten.

Songbird will break from post position 6. But a strong challenge at this distance is expected, and Pioneer of the Nile filly Dark Nile has won four straight following a troubled trip in her debut. She’s worth a play in the exotics at 20-1, and has handled two turns. Her trainer Arnaud Delacour believes she’ll step up again breaking from the rail.

“It’s a bit of an audacious spot, but she’s come along nicely and I’ve always thought she would stay a mile and a quarter,” said Delacour.

Going for Broke makes her stakes debut for Chad Brown. The Blame filly was a maiden winner second time out, and has since captured two allowance races.

“She’s a nice filly who has run through her conditions,” said Brown. “We thought if we were going to get her to the Alabama we would avoid the Coaching Club, which looked difficult, and take one clean shot at a Grade 1. I think the filly will stay a mile and a quarter, but obviously for Songbird to lose something would have to really go wrong. Just to be in the race and have a chance for a piece of it is worth it for us.”

Going for Broke drew post 3 with regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr.

Freshened since running fourth in the Acorn, dual Grade 2 winner Go Maggie Go returns for Dale Romans. “Obviously it’s going to be a salty race,” said Romans, whose Keen Ice upset American Pharoah in last year’s Travers. “It’s hard to run at the level we should and still stay away from Songbird.”

Go Maggie Go drew post 4 with Luis Saez.

Beginning from post 5 is Family Tree, who won the Iowa Oaks June 30 and the Indiana Oaks 16 days later.

“I stepped up to the plate and took a chance, everybody is like, ‘Sometimes you’ve got to do it,’” said trainer Wayne Catalano.

Flora Dora and Weep No More, third and fifth in the Oaks, try Songbird again.

Flora Dora breaks from the outside with blinkers on and Manny Esquivel aboard.

“She’s been a bit more focused,” noted trainer Marialice Coffey. “We’re excited about her coming into this race.”

Weep No More, searching to recapture the form that won her the Grade 1 Ashland, breaks from post 2 and switches back to Corey Lanerie. Trainer Rusty Arnold feels the daughter of Mineshaft is a “true mile and a quarter horse.”

We’ll find out Saturday if Songbird is a mile and a quarter horse as well.

Alabama Stakes – Saratoga Race Course, August 20, 2017.

Race #10, Post time 6:18 pm PT

  1. Dark Nile           20-1    Joe Bravo
  2. Weep No More 15-1    Corey Laner
  3. Going For Broke 10-1    Irad Ortiz, Jr.
  4. Go Maggie Go 8-1     Luis Saez
  5. Family Tree 10-1    Florent Geroux
  6. Songbird 1-5     Mike Smith
  7. Flora Dora 20-1    Emannuel Esquivel