Saturday Stakes Spot Play: The Alabama
by JOE KRISTUFEK
What makes a successful horseplayer?
It all starts with solid handicapping – separating contenders from pretenders, which is predicated on being dialed into the circuit you're following and then supplementing that knowledge with additional preparation (watching replays, accessing workout reports, etc.).
My game is Kentucky and Fair Grounds, consider graded stakes races a "circuit" of their own.
Once you've identified the horses you like, maximizing potential opportunities and opinions based on your budget will often separate the winners from the losers.
Saturday's Alabama (G1) at Saratoga offs a unique handicapping challenge. None of the eight fillies has ever competed over 1 1/4 miles, and five of those have never traveled past 1 1/16 miles.
You must not only decipher the likely pace scenario and handicap current form and upside, but also determine which horses might be best suited to the distance.
The final step is measuring risk versus the potential reward.
The third choice in the morning line at 9-2, She's a Julie is a filly that trainer Steve Asmussen, who also saddles race favorite Midnight Bisou, has always liked. It's taken her some time to develop, but she put all together and then some in her most recent start, galloping to a crushing win in the Iowa Oaks (G3) at Prairie Meadows.
She's A Julie enjoyed a perfect, pressing journey through honest fractions that night, she took over when asked, and won under wraps. I envision her getting a similar trip on Saturday, this time behind a much more formidable rival in Talk Veuve to Me, who I will also use prominently for wagering purposes. She won the Indiana Oaks (G3) for fun, and like She's A Julie, may have more to give.
Midnight Bisou is classy, consistent and is an obvious threat from just off the pace. As much as I like to try and fade favorites for wagering purposes, she's tough to toss.
Eskimo Kisses finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Midnight Bisou in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, and I don't think the added distance will prove to be an equalizer.
Coach Rocks has been somewhat exposed in recent starts and I don't see any upside potential.
Piedi Bianchi is a bit of a wild card. She had some class as a 2-year-old, was transferred to Todd Pletcher, and that return sprint was likely used as a springboard to a route.
Figarella's Queen ran a deceivingly good second behind Talk Veuve to Me in the Indiana Oaks, and she displayed a new dimension in rallying from off the pace.
Auspicious Babe appears to be overmatched.
So when you're going to attack a race, it's always best to rank the runners in categories and order of preference, determine what wagers suit your needs based on budget and financial return goal, and then map out a plan.
Key horses: #4 She's a Julie (9-2), #8 Talk Veuve to Me (5-2)
Use prominently: #3 Midnight Bisou (7-5)
Use: #6 Figarella's Queen (15-1), #2 Eskimo Kisses (6-1), #1 Piedi Bianchi (15-1)
Fade: #7 Coach Rocks (10-1), #5 Auspicious Babe (30-1)
Potential wagers based on rough $150 budget:
$10 exacta 4, 8 with 3, 4, 8 = $40
$4 exacta 4, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 = $40
$2 trifecta 4, 8 with 3, 4, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 = $32
$1 trifecta 4, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 = $40
(Talk Veuve to Me: John Englehardt photo)