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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

My Favorite Runnings of the Alabama

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 Music Note

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 race.

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 finest.


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Older Comments about My Favorite Runnings of the Alabama...

Does not ANYONE remember NOVEMBER SNOW? OMG! Not only did she come from waaay off the pace to win the Alabama but she also won the Test Stakes-G1 (at Saratoga) just a few weeks earlier. She was TRULY REMARKABLE!! The top-weighted 3YO filly IN THE WORLD in 1992!!
Hard to argue with the drama of your top selection; let's not forget how Careless Jewel blitzed a pretty nice field in the 2009 edition...
Hey, everyone sorry I have been away from the world of internet for a couple of days. Brian, I actually was trying to research more Alabama replays because even I thought that picking two of the last three may draw some speculation. But in my memory, since I started watching racing, these two stood out. I think the only one that had the potential to beat one of these two would have been in 2009 had Careless Jewel and Rachel hooked up. But, instead she gave us something even more memorable in the Woodward. Funny that both of these exciting memoriable races are both run at Saratoga...don't ya think, lol :)
My two favorites as well, though Blind Luck and Havre de Grace's edition is my #1!
Yea, two of my favs: Blind Luck and Proud Spell!
When I saw you wrote about two of the last three runnings, I immediately tried to think of better editions that I've seen in the last 40 years, and you know what ... I couldn't think of any ... two fabulous races. Long live the Blind Luck and Havre De Grace rivalry!
Very good choice for your 1st pick!
Two awesome races! Thanks for sharing!

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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