It’s easy to assume that the 1 ¼-mile distance of Saturday’s $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga could lead to surprising results.
After all, three-year-fillies rarely contest such a lengthy distance, so it makes sense that the unfamiliar territory offered by that tenth, testing furlong could produce some surprising results. But the reality has been quite the opposite—in recent years, the Alabama has been pretty much a rerun of the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) earlier in the meet, with six of the last seven Alabama winners emerging from that race.
This year’s CCA Oaks victor—the four-time Grade 1 winner Monomoy Girl—is skipping the Alabama Stakes, which leaves the CCA Oaks runner-up #3 Midnight Bisou as the probable favorite. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the daughter of Midnight Lute has never finished out of the trifecta and has won four graded stakes races this year, including the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. II). And although she was no match for Monomoy Girl in the CCA Oaks, finishing three lengths behind, I thought that Midnight Bisou actually ran quite well that day, considering that she was facing a very tricky task trying to run down Monomoy Girl after the latter shook loose on an easy lead through a slow pace.
Midnight Bisou looms as the class of the field and should be tough to beat with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle, though her Asmussen-trained stablemate #4 She’s a Julie also warrants a look. The steadily-improving daughter of Elusive Quality was a decisive winner of the Iowa Oaks (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows last month, winning with complete authority by 5 ½ lengths. The 99 BRIS speed figure she received for that effort is actually tied for the highest number posted by any filly in the Alabama field.
The other filly to have reached the 99 mark is #8 Talk Veuve to Me, who finished second behind Monomoy Girl in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) before romping to an easy 4 ¾-length triumph in the Indiana Oaks (gr. III) at Indiana Grand. The daughter of Violence has never finished out of the exacta in five starts and seems to be on the rise; furthermore, there’s enough stamina in her pedigree to suggest that she might really appreciate the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Alabama.
Let’s play those two in the exacta with Midnight Bisou:
$4 exacta: 3 with 4,8 ($8)
$5 exacta: 4,8 with 3 ($10)
$2 trifecta: 3 with 2,4,8 with 2,4,8 ($12)