Alabama Rolls Strong Draw Amid This Weekend's Graded Stakes

Wet Paint, paddock schooling at Saratoga | Sarah Andrew


“What's in a name?” Spurning Master Shakespeare and embracing anecdotal evidence, consider the tale of how Saratoga's Oklahoma Training Track got its name. Horsemen complained that the distance across Union Avenue to the main course was such a hike that it might as well be in Boomer Sooner land.

Another piece from the past concerns the name of the Alabama S. Dating to 1872, the race was given that moniker after the Derby-winning owner William Cottrell of Mobile asked if it could be dubbed after his home state, instead of him. We need these names and the history within. What's in a name? Plenty.

Speaking of the Alabama S., another Grade I edition of the fabled race arrives this Saturday and it's a good group of filles that have assembled. As is her running style, Wet Paint (Blame) was up in the final jumps to win the GI CCA Oaks, her first at the elite level, at Saratoga last month. She'll once again face Sacred Wish (Not This Time) and GI Longines Kentucky Oaks runner-up Gambling Girl (Dialed In), who finished second and third, respectively.

Glorias Princess outside Verstappen | Sarah Andrew

Also present are a pair that Wet Paint bested in the GIII Honeybee S. earlier this year at Oaklawn Park. GSW Taxed (Collected), trained by Randy Morse, certainly turned heads when she won the GII Black-Eyed Susan S. at Pimlico May 19, but she was last seen running second to Kenny McPeek trainee Defining Purpose (Cross Traffic) in the GIII Indiana Oaks. That gray filly's best effort this year came when she won the GI Ashland S. at Keeneland Apr. 7, a race which included third-place runner GSW Julia Shining (Curlin), who returns for Todd Pletcher's barn here.

McPeek, who has won the Alabama twice, said when asked about the distance test for Defining Purpose, “She's been a filly that has been a bit of an overachiever from the beginning. She was a $14,000 RNA as a young horse, so everything she's accomplished up until now is all gravy. She's extremely smart and is very willing. She loves her tasks and she's an easy filly to train. She's training fantastic.”

The Saratoga Saturday card includes the GII Lake Placid S. for 3-year-old fillies and up on the inner turf. Chad Brown as a quartet ready, which includes GSW and GISP Prerequisite (Upstart), SW Aspray (Quality Road) and a pair of Klaravich Stables-owned entries in GIII Lake George S.-winner Surge Capacity (Flintshire {GB}) and Tax Implications (GB) (Mehmas {Ire}), who was second in that race. Looking to record the first stakes victory of her career is Gloria's Princess (Cairo Prince). The gray filly graduated from the maiden ranks at Churchill Downs May 3 and then won an allowance condition at Ellis Park for trainer Brendan Walsh June 25.

Anisette | Benoit

Heading west, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is holding its own Grade I event, as the Del Mar Oaks has drawn a field of 10. Out of these 3-year-old filles that will be going nine furlongs on the grass, Anisette (GB) (Awtaad {Ire}) performed impressively with a strong late turn of foot to win the GII San Clemente S. for trainer Leo Powell July 22, while the Richard Mandella trainee Window Shopping (American Pharoah) netted her own Grade II when she won the Summertime Oaks June 3 at Santa Anita. Also from the Hall of Famer's shedrow comes Ruby Nell (Bolt d'Oro), a $1.2-million '22 FTFMAR purchase by Spendthrift Farm, who won in gate-to-wire fashion against optional claimers at Del Mar July 22.

Two tracks that will sport their own weekend graded stakes races include Monmouth Park and Woodbine Racetrack. The 'Shore's Greatest Stretch' will host the GIII Philip H. Iselin S. for older horses going a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt. As the heavy morning-line favorite, 'TDN Rising Star' Zozos (Munnings) comes in for Brad Cox off two stakes wins in a row.

Heading north to Canada, Woodbine hosts the prep for the GI Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Saturday as 11 are scheduled to go to the post for the GII King Edward S. Turf veteran GISW 'TDN Rising Star' Shirl's Speight (Speightstown) returns to the races after he ran fourth in the G1 Dubai Turf on World Cup Night back in late March, as he will square off against GSW Treason (Constitution), who was second in the GIII Dominion Day S. in Toronto July 1.

Treason | Michael Burns

“He's [Shirl's Speight] still carrying a bit more weight than I'd like him to, but I need to run him in this race to get to the [Woodbine] Mile, anyway,” said Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield. “He's working lights out, but he always does.”

Shifting to Sunday's card which includes the King's Plate S., a pair of graded races are on tap with the GIII Bold Venture S., for 3-year-old males and up, over the Tapeta at 6 1/2 furlongs and the GII Dance Smartly S., for 3-year-old females and up, going 1 1/16th over the grass. Patches O'Houlihan (Reload) will try to notch his sixth win in what will be his seventh career start in the Bold Venture, while in the Dance Smartly, 'TDN Rising Star' Salimah (El Kabeir) ships in for trainer Chad Brown and the 2022 Canadian Horse of the Year Moira (Ghostzapper) looks to return to winning ways. Il Malocchio (Souper Speedy) goes from Tapeta to turf after she won the GIII Trillium S. last time.

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