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Dunbar Road favored in Alabama

Dunbar Road favored in Alabama

Beyond top two contenders, Dunbar Road and Point of Honor, field came together from a variety of angles
Dunbar Road favored in Alabama
Dunbar Road and Jose Ortiz roll to victory in the Grade II Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 29.
Photographer: CHELSEA DURAND/NYRA PHOTO

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Much has been said and written about how wide-open the chase is for the 3-year-old male championship this season.

It's no easier of a read on the filly side, as we head closer to the fall campaign, with no clearly established front-runner who has strung together some graded stakes wins (not on the dirt, anyway).

So Saturday's 139th running of the Grade I $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga Race Course could have some bearing on the end-of-the-year divisional Eclipse Award.

Out of a hodgepodge of nine fillies for the Alabama, two stand out, 8-5 morning-line favorite Dunbar Road and 5-2 Point of Honor.

Dunbar Road is one of two top-notch 3-year-old dirt fillies in Chad Brown's barn, and while the Alabama represents her first start since winning the Grade II Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 29, her stablemate, Coaching Club American Oaks winner Guarana, is skipping the mile-and-a-quarter Alabama in favor of the mile-and-a-sixteenth Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 21.

A daughter of 2010 Met Mile and Woodward winner Quality Road, Dunbar Road breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 on the main track last Saturday.

"She's doing fine and is on target for the Alabama. I couldn't be happier with her," Brown told the New York Racing Association after the work. "She's training as good now as she has all year."

Sired by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Point of Honor won the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on Preakness weekend before finishing second to Guarana by a diminishing length in the CCA Oaks.

"She's bred to handle it [distance], and this is the race we've had in the back of our minds for several months now," trainer George Weaver said. "It's going to be up to her and [jockey] Javier [Castellano] to figure out how to get the win. She was second in the Oaks last time. She has to go get it done, but it's something we're looking forward to."

The rest of the Alabama field includes two others who ran against Point of Honor in the Black-Eyed Susan, runner-up Ulele and Off Topic, and three who finished behind Serengeti Empress in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Lady Apple, Champagne Anyone and Street Band.

Street Band's jockey, Sophie Doyle, will be making her first start ever at Saratoga. It will be her eighth straight start on the Larry Jones-trained filly, including a win in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on March 23.

Serengeti Empress isn't running in the Alabama after having been cut back in distance, finishing second to Covfefe in the seven-furlong Grade I Test at Saratoga

Besides Dunbar Road and Grade III Iowa Oaks winner Lady Apple, the only other filly coming into the Alabama off a victory is Street Band, who won the Grade III Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand.

Four of the Alabama horses, Ulele, Off Topic, Kelsey's Cross and Afleet Destiny, have never won a stakes race. Kelsey's Cross will be making the first dirt start in five career starts, all this year.

In the last 20 years, seven Alabama winners have gone on to win an Eclipse Award that season, most recently Songbird in 2016. The others were Questing (2012), recent Hall of Fame inductee Royal Delta (2011), Blind Luck (2010), Proud Spell (2008), Farda Amiga (2002) and Silverbulletday (1999), who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

As a measure of how no 3-year-old filly has taken ahold of the division this season, only four received votes in this week's National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll, and one of them is a turf horse, Concrete Rose, who recently won the Saratoga Oaks on Aug. 2 and is chasing a sweep of the inaugural Turf Tiara.

OTHER STAKES

The Alabama card also includes the Grade II Lake Placid for 3-year-old fillies on the Inner Turf Course, and the $100,000 Smart N Fancy turf sprint for fillies and mares.

Brown is typically well-represented in the Lake Placid, a race he won last year with Rushing Fall.

He'll saddle 2-1 favorite Regal Glory and 5-2 second choice Blowout, who were 1-2, respectively, in the Grade III Lake George on July 19.

They were separated by a half-length in that race, as Regal Glory caught her stablemate to start a Chad-fecta with Dogtag in third. Scratches reduced the Lake George field to just those three fillies.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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