Who Will Win the Alabama Stakes?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

The feature race on Saturday at Saratoga is the $600,000 Alabama S. (G1), one of the most important events in the country for three-year-old fillies.

The historic race is contested over 1 1/4 miles on dirt, which is an uncommon distance for sophomore fillies to tackle. But the testing distance has done nothing to dampen the quality of the field. To the contrary, the 2022 Alabama has drawn a stellar field with four graded stakes winners among the seven entries.

Leading the way is #4 Nest, a stoutly bred daughter of Curlin out of the A.P. Indy mare Marion Ravenwood. The bay filly is a full sibling to 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Idol, and Nest has already displayed abundant stamina of her own by finishing second against males in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont S. (G1).

Nest followed up this effort with a stunning victory in the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. Putting her stamina to good use, Nest pressed and then set solid fractions over a slow and tiring track, exhausting her pursuers before drawing away to win by 12 1/4 lengths.

Nest figures to employ much the same tactics in the Alabama. In a race that isn't overly stuffed with speed horses, Nest should find herself setting or stalking the early tempo. If jockey Irad Ortiz keeps the pace honest like in the Coaching Club American Oaks, it's going to be tough for anyone to keep up with Nest's relentless strides.

The obvious choice for second place is #7 Secret Oath, the only filly to defeat Nest this year. Secret Oath's conquering performance came over 1 1/8 miles in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), in which she launched a sweeping outside rally to defeat Nest by two lengths.

But Nest endured a subtly troubled trip in the Kentucky Oaks, waiting in traffic at a key point around the far turn while Secret Oath swept by unencumbered. The tables were turned in the Coaching Club American Oaks, where Secret Oath—normally a stretch runner—wound up pressing the pace while racing wide. She was no match for Nest down the homestretch, but to her credit, Secret Oath held on for second place despite the challenging trip.

The big question for Secret Oath is whether she wants to run 1 1/4 miles. Her secret weapon is a powerful burst of acceleration around the far turn, which she's put to good use over shorter trips (1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles), but which isn't necessarily suited to a testing 1 1/4-mile journey. Nest has lost ground from the eighth pole to the finish line in three of her four starts running 1 1/8 miles or farther, so part of me wonders if Secret Oath is vulnerable while running her longest race to date.

So who might steal the show for second place? I don't think we can dismiss #3 Gerrymander from the mix. She's a daughter of Into Mischief (sire of Kentucky Derby winners Authentic and Mandaloun) out of Ruby Lips (the dam of long-winded dirt marathon runner Lone Rock), so Gerrymander should be able to handle 1 1/4 miles.

Gerrymander has tactical speed and even led gate-to-wire in the one-mile Tempted S. at Belmont Park last fall, counting a then-inexperienced Nest among her beaten rivals. Even better, Gerrymander was a dominant pace-tracking winner of the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose S. (G2) two months ago at Belmont, beating next-out Monmouth Oaks (G3) winner Shahama by three lengths.

Gerrymander races for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Joel Rosario and Chad Brown, who have gone 4-for-8 (50%) teaming up over the last two months per Brisnet statistics. Gerrymander broke her maiden at Saratoga last summer and returns to the Spa with only two runs under her belt this season, so it's not a stretch to think she could fire her best effort yet in the Alabama. Beating Nest will be difficult, but an exacta finish is well within reach.

Gazelle S. (G3) winner and Coaching Club American Oaks third-place finisher #5 Nostalgic is a logical choice to round out the superfecta, but if you want to toss a longshot into the mix, #1 Skratch Kat might be worth a look. The improving daughter of Arrogate rallied to win an $80,000 allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs last month and is eligible to move forward while stretching out in distance for hot trainer Philip Bauer, who has gone 3-for-6 (50%) at Saratoga this meet.


1st: Nest
2nd: Gerrymander
3rd: Secret Oath
4th: Skratch Kat

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Alabama?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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