It's Tricky After Triple Tiara Sweep in Alabama

To date, five fillies – Top Flight (1932), Shuvee (1969), Mom’s Command (1985), Open Mind (1989), and Sky Beauty (1993) – have swept the Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama. On Saturday, It’s Tricky will attempt to add her name to that list when she faces five formidable 3-year-old fillies in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 TVG Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.


NBC will offer a live telecast of the TVG Alabama as part of NBC Sports Group’s “Summer at Saratoga” series. Coverage will run from 5-6 p.m.


The TVG Triple Tiara was inaugurated in 2010, comprising the Grade 1 TVG Acorn at one mile, Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade 1 TVG Alabama at 1 ¼ miles. After a 3 ¾-length upset victory in the June 11 TVG Acorn and a hard-fought, three-quarter-length triumph in the July 23 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, It’s Tricky is poised to don the Triple Tiara, but first she’ll have to defeat a select field of fillies that includes the winners of the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, Queen’s Plate, Delaware Oaks, and Desert Vixen.


After opening her career with three victories at Aqueduct Racetrack, including an eight-length romp in the Busher, It’s Tricky suffered her first and only loss when she finished a distant fourth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. She returned to New York to take the TVG Acorn on June 11 at Belmont Park, defeating eventual Grade 1 Test winner Turbulent Descent, and wore down Kentucky Oaks heroine and TVG Alabama entrant Plum Pretty to capture an exhilarating edition of the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at Saratoga.


Following the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confronts the task of having It’s Tricky maintain the form she carried through the first two legs of the series.


“You always worry about that, but being there aren’t too many new faces [in the TVG Alabama] it seems like it might be the same race shape and participants,” said McLaughlin, who trains the Mineshaft filly for Godolphin Stable. “The extra eighth of a mile shouldn’t be a big deal, either.”


McLaughlin had hoped It’s Tricky would draw a post position outside Plum Pretty, and the trainer got his wish, with It’s Tricky set to leave from post 4 and Plum Pretty post 3.


“Best case scenario, we draw outside of Plum Pretty, then we can see what she’s doing,” said McLaughlin.


Eddie Castro has the assignment aboard It’s Tricky, who was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite.


Plum Pretty, a neck winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 and second by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks, has been based at Saratoga following her runner-up effort in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, and her connections hope the additional time to acclimate will help her turn the tables on It’s Tricky in the TVG Alabama.


“I think with having training here over the surface now the last three weeks, I think we’ll be in better shape,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “I think it’s kind of hard coming in right off the plane on this track and she ran huge, she ran a winning race, she ran her eyes out, but I think we’re in better shape this time.”


John Fort, whose Peachtree Stable owns Plum Pretty, believes victories in the Kentucky Oaks and TVG Alabama would make a compelling case for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro to be awarded the Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.


“I don’t vote on those things, but if she wins the Kentucky Oaks and [TVG] Alabama, she will have won the races everyone wants to win the most,” said Fort. “That’s it. There’s no argument. Period.”


Martin Garcia will come East to ride Plum Pretty, the 2-1 morning-line second choice.


Also exiting the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks is Royal Delta, who finished an even third, defeated 7 ¼ lengths. After winning the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 20 at Pimlico, she was originally pointed toward a start in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 25. Withdrawn with a foot bruise, she prepped for her TVG Coaching Club American Oaks start with two breezes at Belmont and one over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.


Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott initially considered running Royal Delta in Sunday’s Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid on the grass, with the filly turning in a 59.04 five-furlong turf breeze on August 8, before he opted in favor of the TVG Alabama.


“The [TVG] Alabama is a very important race,” said Mott. “It’s very prestigious, she’s won a graded stakes on the dirt, and was third in the Coaching Club. We may switch to the grass later on, in a Grade 1 perhaps.”


Royal Delta, 6-1 on the morning line, will have the services of Jose Lezcano from the rail.


History is on the side of Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River, who will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Proud Spell (2008), Careless Jewel (2009), and Blind Luck (2010) and follow up on a victory in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks with a triumph in the TVG Alabama.


Even before her second-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, in which she bore out badly at the start and lost by a neck after a late rally, St. John’s River has had the TVG Alabama on her agenda.


“If she ran well in the Kentucky Oaks, we were going to go to the Delaware Oaks and then the [TVG] Alabama,” said trainer Andrew Leggio, Jr.


In the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks, St. John’s River made a five-wide rally to get up by a head, and Leggio believes the extra three-sixteenths of the TVG Alabama will aid St. John’s River’s stretch run.


“She absolutely belongs with these horses,” said Leggio. “She’s training really well, and in every race she’s run, she’s run a good race. The [extra distance] is what I want as she has been coming from behind.”


Robby Albarado will ride St. John’s River, 5-1 on the morning line, from post 5.


Donver Stable’s Inglorious enters the TVG Alabama off three straight scores over Woodbine’s Polytrack, having won the May 15 La Lorgnette for fillies, the June 5 Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-foaled fillies, and the June 26 Queen’s Plate for all Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds. In the Queen’s Plate, Inglorious defeated 16 opponents at the TVG Alabama’s 1 ¼-mile distance.


After winning the Queen’s Plate, Inglorious’ connections elected to bypass the remaining races of the Canadian Triple Crown, the July 17 Princes of Wales on dirt and August 7 Breeders’ Stakes on turf, and target a start in TVG Alabama, which they won in 2009 with Careless Jewel.


“She ran several hard races right in a row and the timing [of the TVG Alabama] was right,” said trainer Josie Carroll. “She ran well enough [on dirt] in New Orleans [second in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March] and I certainly wouldn’t bring her if I didn't think she had a chance. [The distance is] one less thing to worry about; I know she’ll get 1 ¼ miles.”


Luis Contreras, who rode Inglorious in the Queen’s Plate and completed his own sweep of the Canadian Triple Crown when he won the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ with Pender Harbour, will come down from Canada to ride Inglorious in the TVG Alabama. The daughter of Hennessy will leave from post 6 at 6-1 on the morning line.


Pinch Pie, winner of two straight on the turf, will switch back to the dirt for the TVG Alabama, having captured a May 25 optional claimer at Delaware Park and the July 24 Desert Vixen at Monmouth Park. Three of her seven career starts have come on dirt, with a sixth in a Delaware maiden last August, a fourth in the Grade 3 Tempted at Aqueduct in November, and a second in an off-the-turf event at Gulfstream Park in March.


With his filly on the upswing and the two morning-line favorites exiting strenuous efforts in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, trainer Tony Dutrow decided the timing is right for Pinch Pie to take a shot in the TVG Alabama.


“The distance is unknown for [It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty],” said Dutrow, who conditions Pinch Pie for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and The Elkstone Group. “But those two fillies went at it pretty hard in the Mother Goose, and they’re coming back on relatively short rest, going another eighth of a mile … maybe they won’t come back and run as well. Maybe they will, I don’t know. But that had something to do with my thought process.”


Pinch Pie, 15-1 on the morning line, will leave from post 2 with John Velazquez in the irons.


The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 TVG Alabama:








Royal Delta (KY)

J Lezcano


W I Mott



Pinch Pie (KY)

J R Velazquez


A W Dutrow



Plum Pretty (PA)

M Garcia


B Baffert



It's Tricky (KY)

E Castro


K P McLaughlin



St. John's River (KY)

R Albarado


A Leggio, Jr.



Inglorious (ON)

L Contreras


J Carroll





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