Sam the Bugler played "Oh, Suzanna" as the seven fillies entered the track for the Alabama. He might as well have played "O Canada!" when they exited.
Careless Jewel, the recent Delaware Oaks winner that came from Woodbine with trainer Josie Carroll and jockey Robert Landry, was a magnificent winner of Saratoga's premier race for 3-year-old fillies in just her fifth start. It was her first grade I victory. Milwaukee Appeal, bred and raced her entire life in Ontario, finished second.
It was the 129th time that the Alabama has been run. Canadian-based horses have won it before, notably Fanfreluche in 1970 and Lauries Dancer in 1971. The quality for this one was thinned because Rachel Alexandra was awaiting a different engagement. But it was a special Alabama because of the way Careless Jewel took it. She won by 11 lengthy lengths after dueling Be Fair for four furlongs.
What another great day it was at the old Spa Course on Saturday. The rain stayed away. The crowds came in droves. You had to be there to believe it when six horses finished less than a half-length apart in the ninth. It was mind-blowing.
Grassy, a son of El Prado, proved the best of a tight bunch despite a trip that gave trainer Christophe Clement the willies. Left at the gate and finding himself 10 lengths behind once the first turn was run, the impressive roan colt circled a half dozen horses wide as the leaders dove into the stretch and carried on gamely at Ramon Dominguez's urgings. He nosed his way ahead at the very end of what must be the closest six-horse finish in Saratoga history, maybe anywhere.
Clearly, the victory was admired by all, as applause rang through the clubhouse like church bells. The ovation didn't subside for nearly a minute as one by one each of the runners returned to the unsaddling area. One man who didn't earn the notice he deserved was Alan Garcia. The meet's leading jockey gave the co-favorite Good Prospect a daring ride that almost snatched victory from sure defeat.
Unfortunately, when all was said and run, Good Prospect lost by a nose and a nose. You could say that for the second and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth place horses, too - only, if you do that, make it a nose and a nose and a nose and a nose and a nose.
In the race just before that, the entries wore pink saddle cloths and the outriders pink jackets to signify their support for Breast Cancer Research. This, too, was a great race but not as great as the cause that it honored.
Suzie O'Cain led a group of pink-clad women in their finery into the winner's circle to meet standout Discreetly Mine and accept NYRA's donation of $10,000. If Grassy starred in the track's tightest photo, Marylou Whitney, Michele Riggi, Debbie Oxley and Myra Biblowit posed for its most important.