SARATOGA SPRINGS — There are plenty of question marks for Crazy Beautiful heading into Saturday’s Grade I Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.
Trainer Kenny McPeek shrugged off most of them.
He won’t have an answer for the biggest one, though — is she good enough right now to win it — until they run the race.
Some of his stable stars, like Swiss Skydiver and King Fury, have found alternate paths to their respective ultimate goals, after McPeek’s barn was placed in a 21-day quarantine at the beginning of the meet.
Crazy Beautiful, however, has trained up to the $600,000 Alabama, Saratoga’s most important dirt route race for 3-year-old fillies, and hasn’t raced since July 3.
What looms most prominently over her prospects on Saturday is the fact that Crazy Beautiful finished 10 1/2 lengths behind Alabama favorite Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30.
Granted, Crazy Beautiful was compromised by a troubled start in the Kentucky Oaks, and since then she has won the Grade II Summertime at Santa Anita and the Grade III Delaware Oaks. But there’s a reason Malathaat is still the even-money favorite despite having lost the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks to long shot Maracuja on July 24, and Crazy Beautiful will need to step up her game.
“She’s got to be much improved off her race against Malathaat in her last run,” McPeek said on Thursday morning. “We think that the Kentucky Oaks was a bit of a throwout, because she broke awkward and not much went right. Since then, she’s regrouped and put a lot of it together. Fingers crossed that we can keep her streak going.
“I was surprised by the upset [in the CCA Oaks]. I didn’t think the favorite would get beat, but that just shows you that anything can happen. If Crazy Beautiful runs back to her last couple of races, I think she’s right there in the thick of it with those two.”
The mile-and-a-quarter Alabama has drawn a field of seven, and Malathaat is even money on the morning line, while Crazy Beautiful is 6-1.
On the various obstacles not named Malathaat that could pose a challenge for Crazy Beautiful, McPeek offered his usual pre-race optimism.
Crazy Beautiful, a gray daughter of 2015 Woodward winner Liam’s Map, has raced longer than a mile and a sixteenth just once, and that was in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I think she can handle it,” McPeek said. “I think the way Jose [Ortiz] rides and the way he rode her in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, which was the last time he was on her, she’ll handle that fine, no problem. Distance is the least of my worries.”
Crazy Beautiful encountered an off track in the Delaware Oaks and won by six lengths as the 1-5 betting favorite, so if the main track is still showing the effects of Thursday’s all-day soaker, and whatever more rain shows up by post time, she should be OK with that.
“As a matter of fact, she might even like it,” McPeek said.
He said the No. 1 post position shouldn’t be a problem, since there’s plenty of stretch to cover before the field gets into the first turn.
In the Kentucky Oaks, Crazy Beautiful got pinched back by horses on either side of her right at the start while breaking from the No. 4 in a 13-horse field.
Because of that, McPeek is willing to draw a line through that one.
“Just got bumped leaving there and got shuffled back and just never really recovered after that. She just never got in any rhythm in the race,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to force anything early [in the Alabama]. It’s a long way around there. [Ortiz] just needs to be patient and get her in rhythm and let her make a run.”
Crazy Beautiful had been pointing toward the CCA Oaks, but McPeek wasn’t allowed to enter horses at that time because of the quarantine for a positive test for Equine Herpesvirus-1 in a horse at his barn trained by Jorge Abreu.
Besides missing the start, Crazy Beautiful has been breezing on the Oklahoma Training Track and hasn’t been on the main track.
Her five career wins from 10 starts have come at four different tracks, though, so McPeek downplayed the impact of missing the CCA Oaks in the context of Crazy Beautiful’s shot at the Alabama, which her stablemate Swiss Skydiver won last year.
“Obviously, you want to win a Grade I with a filly, and we felt like she won at Delaware easy enough that the Coaching Club would be an ideal next spot,” McPeek said. “Unfortunately, she never got a chance to go. It’s been an unusual summer in that regard.
“She didn’t breeze at Delaware, she didn’t breeze at Santa Anita. I don’t think that’s necessary at all with her. She really doesn’t need to bring her racetrack with her. She’s a real pro. She’s kind of a mini-Swiss Skydiver. Swiss Skydiver traveled around a lot and did a lot of things right, and this filly’s the same way.”
TRAVERS DAY PROBABLES
According to the New York Racing Association, next Saturday’s Grade I Travers field will consist of Dynamic One, Essential Quality, Keepmeinmind, King Fury, Masqueparade, Midnight Bourbon and Miles D.
The card will also include five other Grade I stakes, the Sword Dancer on the turf, the Forego sprint, the H. Allen Jerkens for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs, the Personal Ensign and the Ballerina sprint for fillies and mares.
There’s a short list of probables for the Allen Jerkens, but an intriguing matchup between Jackie’s Warrior and Life is Good looms.
The Bob Baffert-trained Gamine, the 2020 champion female sprinter, is expected to run in the Ballerina.
Letruska, the top older dirt route female in North America, is on the list for the Personal Ensign, as are Swiss Skydiver, Graceful Princess, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Miss Marissa and Royal Flag.
AROUND THE TRACK
In Thursday’s feature, Awesome Debate won in the slop for the second time at the meet, putting away heavy favorite Sadie Lady to win the Union Avenue, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for New York-bred fillies and mares on the main track.
Awesome Debate won on a sloppy, sealed track at Saratoga on July 18, then was sent to Finger Lakes, where she finished well back in fifth in an optional claiming race on Aug. 9.
Sadie Lady, 2-5 on the morning line and 3-5 in the betting, faded to fourth. …
Trainer Orlando Noda was fined $5,000 on Sunday by the New York State Gaming Commission for “action detrimental to the best interest of racing.”
According to the NYSGC report, the “date of occurrence” was Thursday, Aug. 5, and that the violation location was Saratoga.
Noda has appealed the fine. …
The 2019 Travers winner Code of Honor is entered in the Grade III Philip Iselin at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
Fourth in the Whitney last year, he hasn’t raced since a fifth behind Knicks Go in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 23. …
Sir Winston, the 2019 Belmont Stakes winner, made his first start in almost a year when he won a $108,700 allowance optional claiming race by two lengths at Woodbine on Thursday.
He was sixth in the Suburban at Belmont last July, followed by a fourth-place finish in an overnight stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 1.
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