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Sea Island Should Relish Alabama Trip

mcgaughey main
Photo: NYRA
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has long believed Sea Island will perform her best at extended distances, and on Saturday he’ll have the chance to try her at 1 ¼ miles when she competes in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies.


“She’s taking a huge jump up,” said McGaughey. “We just have to see if she has enough talent. I think she’s one who will run that far. She’s bred to run that far.”


After Sea Island rattled off consecutive wins at Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park, McGaughey wanted to run the Pulpit filly in a second-level allowance race at Belmont, but circumstances forced him instead to cut back in distance for Belmont ’s Grade 3, six-furlong Victory Ride on July 7. Last of six until deep stretch, Sea Island passed tiring rivals to finish fourth, beaten 3 ½ lengths by stretch-runner Emma’s Encore, who returned to win the Grade 1 Prioress on August 4 at Saratoga.


“When [the allowance] races didn’t fill, I had to run her in the [Victory Ride],” said McGaughey. “She doesn’t have that kind of speed, but I had the race handicapped right. We just weren’t the ones who were finishing. She dropped far back, but I thought she ran fine.”


McGaughey said he briefly considered having Sea Island make a two-week turnaround for the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 before deciding to run her against older fillies and mares in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer on July 26 at Saratoga . She went on to defeat 2011 Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks runner-up St. John’s River by 3 ½ lengths in that race.


“If she had run exceptionally well [in the Victory Ride], I might have run her back [in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks], but it still would have been close,” said McGaughey. “I decided to run her in a two other-than where I could go in there with the confidence that she could run a respectable race. That filly, St. John’s River , is pretty accomplished, so it’s not like we beat a bunch of bums.”


Sea Island , a Phipps Stable homebred, is out of Resort, who finished second in the Coaching Club and sixth in the Alabama in 2000. Resort’s most accomplished foal to date is Sightseeing, who won the Grade 2 Peter Pan after finishing second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in 2007.


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