I haven’t been watching racing for decades like many hardened
handicappers and proud racing fans. I have only been watching racing since
2002, but in these past nine years I have been privileged enough to have
witnessed some truly awe inspiring, soul stirring races. The Alabama Stakes, at
Saratoga, has been one of the many races that have given me many of my
viewing thrills. However, only two editions of this race really stick out in my memory.
#2 Proud Spell vs
It was brilliance of new, up and comer, Music Note vs. the
game relentlessness of Proud Spell, in the 2008 edition of the Alabama Stakes.
Music Note was staging her assault on the modern day Triple Tiara. In the
Mother Goose she defeated Proud Spell, soundly, in a brilliant performance. She
then followed that up with a tour de force win in the Coaching Club American
Oaks. This was her chance to prove that her Mother Goose win was not just her
being the beneficiary of the heavy favorite’s troubled trip.
Proud Spell was summed up in one word…consistency. Even as a
juvenile she competed against the top horses and was always right there at the
end. If not for the brilliant speed of Indian Blessing, it would have been
Proud Spell standing in the winner’s circle of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile
Fillies. She was not flashy and seemed like she was always in the shadow of
another’s brilliance. First, as a juvenile by Indian Blessing, then by her stablemate
Eight Belles, during the spring of her three year old season. The Alabama would
be the race for her to finally show that she could rise out of the shadows.
The race was all that it was billed to be and more. As the
field turned into the stretch it was Proud Spell with a narrow lead with Music
Note not even a length behind. The duel took the length of the entire stretch,
and for a few moments it looked as if Music Note would get the better of Proud
Spell once again. Proud Spell would have none of it. She dug back in and showed
the heart of a champion. When they crossed the line It was Proud Spell by a
neck. She had risen from the shadows and was finally recognized for what she
had always been, a champion.
#1 Blind Luck vs Havre de Grace
The 2010 Alabama Stakes was billed as a showdown between the
brilliant Devil May Care and the “Energizer Bunny”, Blind Luck. It was supposed
to be the beginning of a great summer rivalry, though as the horses charged
towards the line, the rivalry that was shoved to the forefront of racing was
not the one racing fans expected.
Blind Luck was brilliant as a two year old and continued
that form as a three year old. Her deep closing style made her one of the most
exciting fillies in racing. It may have gotten her in trouble a couple of time
early in the season, but during the summer, the California golden gal was a
force to be reckoned with. In her Alabama prep she won the Delaware Oaks, where
she first met Havre de Grace, but it was not until the Alabama that the rivalry
would truly begin to blossom.
Havre de Grace was largely an unknown before the Delaware
Oaks. She had taken two tries to break her maiden, and then went on to win an
allowance. However, in her first stakes try she ran second to the promising No
Such Word. In the Delaware Oaks she fired a warning flare to the racing world
when she nearly stole the race, only to be denied by inches. Even with her game
performance, she was ignored when compared with the two titans entered in the
Again a stirring duel the length of the stretch ignited as
Havre de Grace was the one who came out of the turn with the lead, daring Blind
Luck to run her down. As she wore down Acting Happy, Blind Luck was making her
patented late run. As the wire drew near the two fillies were all out, on
desperate to get up the other desperate to hold on. At the wire it was Blind
Luck whose systematic rally saw her get up by a neck.
The 2010 ranks as my greatest Alabama, simply because it
birthed a heated rivalry that is the female equivalent to the likes of Affirmed
and Alydar. Two greats gritting it out, they are thoroughbred racing at its