2023 Alabama Stakes Preview
The Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes, contested at 1 ¼ miles on the main track, drew a field of ten talented sophomore dirt routers. Though Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous turned back for the Test (G1) two weeks ago, the field for the Alabama includes Oaks second-place finisher Gambling Girl, Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) top two Wet Paint and Sacred Wish, and Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner Taxed. It is historically one of the most important thoroughbred racing events of the summer, and this year’s edition will be no different!
2023 Alabama Stakes Information
- Race Date: Saturday, August 19
- Track: Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York
- Post Time: 5:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
- Distance: 1 ¼ miles
- Age/Sex: three-year-old fillies
- Where to Watch: TVG.com, Fox Sports
- Where to Bet: TVG.com and FanDuel Racing
Alabama Stakes Draw and Odds
This is the full field for the 2023 edition of the Alabama Stakes, including post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds.
|Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Alabama Stakes Prep Race Results
The ten contenders for the Alabama come out of seven races, with a pair of stakes races sending more than one runner into this race.
The top three finishers in the Coaching Club American Oaks last month at Saratoga all proceed to the Alabama. Wet Paint got up late to catch the more forwardly placed Sacred Rish and prevail by a neck. Gambling Girl finished third, another 8 ½ lengths back, as the 6-5 favorite in that race.
The top two runners from the Indiana Oaks (G3) step up in class for this feature at Saratoga. Defining Purpose stalked a slow pace that day to win by a length and a quarter over a late-running Taxed.
The only other horse to come out of a stakes win is Randomized, who most recently won the Wilton, a restricted dirt mile at Saratoga for non-winners of a stakes race other than state-bred. Julia Shining makes her first start since a third-place finish in the Ashland (G1) in April. Fireline was fourth in the Delaware Oaks (G3) last out, while Chocolate Gelato was fourth in the Jersey Girl at Belmont Park in June.
The only runner coming out of a non-stakes race is Sabra Tuff, who was most recently fourth in a first-level allowance against older at Saratoga on July 13.
Alabama Stakes Contenders
These ten runners, organized by post position, are contesting the 2023 Alabama Stakes.
- Sacred Wish: One of the later bloomers in the field, she hasn’t won since a maiden sprint victory in March but has hit the board in two of three graded tries, including just being caught late by Wet Paint in the Coaching Club American Oaks. The rail draw is less than ideal in a fairly large field, but if she breaks alertly, she could get a forward trip in a race without a lot of early gas.
- Wet Paint: The dominant horse on the Oaklawn spur of the Kentucky Oaks trail this year looked to be flagging through late spring, but she bounced back into form for trainer Brad Cox in the Coaching Club American Oaks, rallying to catch Sacred Wish late. Both her breeding and her on-track performance suggest upside at a mile and a quarter, and even though she drew relatively inside, she has handled such draws before. The biggest question is pace, but even then, she finished well into a pedestrian pace last out.
- Julia Shining: This full sister to 2021 Alabama winner Malathaat won both her starts at two, though has settled for third in both her starts so far this year. She did not draw in off the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks and has been on the shelf since the Ashland in April. The question is how sharp trainer Todd Pletcher has her off the lay; her pedigree should get her the distance, and her running style suits, so if she brings her best off the layoff, she could run a winning race.
- Sabra Tuff: Her nine starts make her one of the more experienced in the field, but she has not won since a debut maiden win at 5 ½ furlongs on June 8 of last year. She picked up a few placings in early-season juvenile stakes last year and even finished a credible fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, but her best effort at three was her last-out fourth in a first-level allowance. Though the 1 ⅛-mile distance of that race is a little longer than her pedigree suggests she would want, the extra furlong is a concern, as is the likely pedestrian pace.
- Fireline: She looked great in a pair of one-turn miles, a maiden win last November at Aqueduct, and a first-level allowance win when she returned in May. However, she finished a flat fourth at odds-on in the Delaware Oaks. Even so, if she stays a price horse (think 8-1 or longer), there’s an argument: Chad Brown does well with lightly-raced horses who look like they’re taking a shot, and her pedigree appeals strongly for the extra distance.
- Chocolate Gelato: She looked like one of the better juveniles of her class last year with a maiden romp at Saratoga, followed by a victory in the Frizette (G1) in October. But, after a 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she was on the shelf until June, when she finished a flat third in the Jersey Girl, a sprint at Belmont. She has some upside to move forward in her second start of the year, and she clearly liked Saratoga last year, but 1 ¼ miles may be too far, and her regular rider, Irad Ortiz, Jr., takes the call on Gambling Girl instead.
- Gambling Girl: She has not won since a New York-bred sprint last September, but she has nonetheless proven that she fits in graded stakes company: she has hit the board in four such races, including the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club American Oaks in her last two starts. She will need to bounce back from that last race, given that she was well behind the top two, but she has a right to move forward second off the layoff, and she is consistent and versatile enough to work a trip.
- Randomized: The shorter-priced runner out of the Chad Brown pair, she tries Grade 1 company again after getting a confidence-builder in a restricted stakes last out. The 1 ¼ miles may tax her stamina, but her early speed from a relatively outside gate could get her a clean trip on a pedestrian pace. She may be overbet as the Chad Brown “A,” but it wouldn’t be a surprise for her to step up.
- Taxed: Claimed by her current connections for $50,000 last November, she has run exclusively in stakes company since and scored a breakthrough victory in the Black-Eyed Susan in May. She couldn’t catch Defining Purpose last out in the Indiana Oaks, though, and may run into a similar issue here: not enough pace for her running style, which does seem to skew more toward the late-running against good horses.
- Defining Purpose: The surprise winner of the Ashland in April, she regressed in the Kentucky Oaks but stalked a slow pace and prevailed in the Indiana Oaks last month. That kind of a trip might benefit her here as well, stalking the pace in a race without a lot of early speed. Given the class of her opposition, she will have to find her best, and the distance is a question, but trainer Ken McPeek’s horses tend to move up second off the lay, and the pace setup works.
Alabama Stakes FAQ
Q: When is the Alabama Stakes?
A: The Alabama Stakes happens on Saturday, August 19, 2023, at 5:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The race is carded as the ninth of the 11-race card.
Q: Where is the Alabama Stakes?
A: The race happens at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Alabama Stakes?
A: “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons won a record eight editions of the Alabama in his career between 1924 and 1959, including with all-time stars like Vagrancy and Busanda. Among trainers in the 2023 edition, Todd Pletcher (Chocolate Gelato, Gambling Girl, Julia Shining) leads with four wins, including the last two editions of the race.
Q: Who is the favorite for the Alabama Stakes?
A: Off her score in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Wet Paint is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. She should be a well-defined favorite.
Q: Who is the best Alabama Stakes jockey?
A: Three jockeys are tied with five wins in the Alabama: Jorge Velasquez, Jerry Bailey, and Mile Smith. Though Smith is still active, he is riding at Del Mar on Saturday and therefore does not have a call in the Alabama. Among jockeys in this year’s edition of the race, John Velazquez (Sacred Wish) leads with four wins, most recently with Malathaat in 2021.
Q: Who won the Alabama Stakes in 2022?
A: In her second start since finishing second against males in the Belmont Stakes, Nest won the 2022 Alabama for trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., and owners Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Michael House. Pletcher returns to the fray with three horses this year: Chocolate Gelato, Gambling Girl, and Julia Shining. Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes the call on Gambling Girl, who, like Chocolate Gelato, is owned by Nest’s co-owner Repole Stable.