By MARK HOFFMAN
For The Recorder
Today is the 134th running of the Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, considered by some as the biggest race in that division on the NYRA circuit. In the Alabama's rich history, it's had such winners as Beldame, Maskette, Top Flight, Vagrancy, Busanda, Tempted, Gamely and Shuvee -- all of whom eventually had stake races named after them.
More recently, Hall of Fame runners like Mom's Command and Go For Wand have won this 1 1/4-mile test around the Saratoga oval. The first graded stakes race I saw in person was the 1987 edition of the Alabama Stakes which saw Up the Apalachee defeat a slew of D. Wayne Lukas runners. Twelve years later, one of the greatest efforts by a 3-year-old filly was showcased in the 1999 edition of the Alabama. Silverbulletday destroyed the field by nine lengths in her return from a ill-fated effort versus the boys in the Belmont Stakes that year only a few weeks before.
This year, the big filly entered was supposed to be Untapable, winner of this year's Kentucky Oaks. She, too, faced the boys, but not in the Belmont Stakes. It was the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth and her result was much like Silverbulletday's with a losing outcome. Unfortunately, Untapable won't be competing today. But we have a nice field of nine fillies.
Todd Pletcher has two runners -- the probable favorite Stopchargingmaria is the only Grade I winner in the field after winning the Coaching Club American Oaks here over the track and Get Lucky, who also has a victory over the track. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has entered three runners with America, Miss Besilu and Size. Four other nice fillies round out the field with seasoned stakes runners and lightly raced ones. With the leader of the 3-year-old class not entered today, it's a wide open event worth taking a shot with a priced horse.
That priced horse has a trainer who is no stranger to the winner's circle in this event. In 2000, four years before he trained Smarty Jones to within a Belmont Stakes stretch run of the Triple Crown, John Servis brought filly named Jostle to the Alabama from his Philadelphia Park base. Just like Stopchargingmaria, she won the Black Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico and the CCA Oaks at Belmont before winning the Alabama. It could be said that Jostle was the first horse that put Servis on the map.
Today, he sends a daughter of Include attempting the 1 1/4-mile distance by the name of Joint Return. This closer was second best in the Delaware Oaks behind Fortune Pearl -- who is also entered in the Alabama -- and fourth behind Stopchargingmaria in the Black Eyed Susan Stakes. Today she gets blinkers on and is at 15-1 morning line with the two horses that beat her at 2-1 and 8-1. Just maybe, Servis can capture a little of that magic from 14 years ago at a price with Joint Return winning this year's edition of the Alabama Stakes.
We also have stakes action at Arlington Park today with their Arlington Million Day that includes six graded stakes on the grass. Here are my selections for the All Stakes Pick 4 in races seven through 10:
American St. Leger Stakes (7th): Danino (#2) -- Eye of the Storm (#9) -- Havana Beat (#7).
Secretariat Stakes (8th): Adelaide (#6) -- Belisarius (#3) â Divine Oath (#7).
Beverly D. (9th): Stephanie's Kitten (#5) -- Alterite (#9) -- Sparkling Beam (#10).
Arlington Million (10th): Smoking Sun (#2) -- Real Solution (#6) -- Finnegans Wake (#4).