Flashback: Go for Wand magical in Saratoga's Alabama Stakes

By Keeler Johnson, Special to HRN
August 13, 2019 09:27am
Go For Wand BC 615 X 400
Photo: Breeders' Cup

Generally speaking, horseplayers and racing fans enjoy races with large and competitive fields. When a mere three horses turn out to contest a major stakes race, you’re apt to hear cries of disappointment from folks expecting a bigger, better show.

But once in a while, a truly great racehorse comes along with the ability to exceed all expectations and turn uninspiring events into showcases of their sensational talent. Such a horse was the fantastic filly Go for Wand, whose domination of the 1990 Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga remains unequaled to this day.

It could have been a boring race. And from a purely wagering standpoint, perhaps it was. On paper, Go for Wand towered over her two rivals. Already the Billy Badgett-trained daughter of Deputy Minister had rattled off victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashland Stakes (G1), Mother Goose Stakes (G1) and Test Stakes (G1) to establish a strong reputation as the leading sophomore filly in North America. Few expected the Christiana Stables homebred to come up short at Saratoga.

It’s not that Go for Wand’s rivals were slouches. Charon had won the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), while Pampered Star entered off a victory in the Monmouth Oaks (G2). But neither could boast the accomplishments or raw brilliance of Go for Wand, who had already defeated Charon twice earlier in the season. The 1 ¼-mile Alabama figured to end in another easy victory for the reigning 2-year-old champion.

But few could have anticipated how spectacular Go for Wand would run.

The night before the Alabama, Saratoga was inundated with rain, leaving the track labeled “good” when post time rolled around for the feature race. Bettors established Go for Wand as the odds-on favorite at 1-2, and with regular rider Randy Romero in the saddle, the star filly seized the early lead with 3-2 second choice Charon in pursuit.

Despite the small field size and tactical nature of the race, none of the three fillies were aggressive in pushing the pace. With Charon content to track the pace, Go for Wand waltzed along through fractions of :24 flat, :48 1/5, and 1:11 2/5, akin to a walk in the park for a filly of Go for Wand’s speed and talent. Just nine days prior, she had equaled a stakes record in the seven-furlong Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, clocking seven furlongs in 1:21 flat after dueling for the lead through intense fractions of :22 1/5, :44 3/5, and 1:08 1/5.

Naturally, setting a much slower pace in the Alabama left Go for Wand with plenty in the tank for her drive down the homestretch. Rounding the far turn, Charon was under pressure to keep up, and Go for Wand entered the stretch with a comfortable 2 ½-length advantage. Down the lane, Romero never even asked Go for Wand for her best as she powered to the finish line four, five, six, finally seven lengths in front.

Charon was game in pursuit, but ultimately no match for the champion. Pampered Star was unable to keep pace with the top two and was ultimately eased to the finish line. It’s easy to understand why — when Go for Wand crossed the wire, the teletimer revealed she had clocked the 1 ¼-mile distance in 2:00 4/5, breaking the stakes record.

The approximately 32,000 lucky racing fans in attendance witnessed history. To this day, no filly or mare has ever run a faster 1 ¼ miles at Saratoga.

“[Go for Wand] just keeps getting better and better,” marveled Romero in an article by Bill Douglas in the Glen Falls, New York
The Post-Star of August 12, 1990. “My mare took off a little slow, but in three or four strides, she dictated the race. It was just a matter of how far I was going to win by.”

Craig Perret, the jockey of Charon, admitted his filly was simply second-best on the day. “[Charon] had every opportunity to beat [Go for Wand] and she couldn’t,” said Perret. “My horse had no alibis today.”

Who needs an alibi? There’s no disgrace in finishing second to a horse like Go for Wand, one of the most dominant and remarkable fillies in the history of North American horse racing.

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. You can follow him on Twitter at @J_Keelerman.


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