SARATOGA SPRINGS – Dunbar Road had a couple of apparent strikes against her in Saturday’s $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1). She was making just her fifth career start in the 10-furlong test, and had never raced beyond 8½ furlongs. Bettors ignored all that, however, sending the daughter of Quality Road off as the 3-2 favorite in the field of eight sophomore fillies.
The outcome was in doubt in mid-stretch, as the contending horses began laboring in the sloppy (sealed) going, with rain pelting them from a prolonged storm that began while they were still in the paddock. Approaching the eighth pole, Dunbar Road surged ahead of Point of Honor and Street Band, then kicked away to a 2¼-length victory in the historic race.
“For me, loving fillies like that, it’s a great, great honor to win this race,” said winning owner Peter Brant. “It’s one of the oldest races, and since I was a little kid I was wanting to win this. I was very lucky in the 1980s to win it with Spit Curl [in 1983].
“I was very concerned [about the weather], because it is only the fifth start of her life, and the 1¼ miles coming from 1 1/16 miles, but she’s a good filly and she really handled it.”
Champagne Anyone, who had taken over from early pacesetter Ulele on the turn, gave way to Street Band in upper stretch, as Dunbar Road (who was still sixth at the quarter-pole}and Point of Honor appeared to pose a threat to the outside. But Dunbar Road had the momentum and soon separated herself from the others, sailing away to a decisive victory. The running time was 2:04.07.
Point of Honor nosed out Street Band for the place. Off Topic, Afleet Destiny, Champagne Anyone, Ulele and Lady Apple trailed in that order.
“It was a wild hour or so there, with the delay, but thankfully it worked out for us,” said winning trainer Chad Brown. “We got shuffled back early [from the no. 1 hole], and I really wasn’t certain down the backside – with how far back she was – that we would win from there. She was just so much the best today. She was able to overcome everything.”
“I was hoping to get to the lead,” said winning rider Jose Ortiz, “but the other horses broke well, too, and I just had to sit into the first turn. I felt like a winner from the five-eighths pole, the whole way home. She’s special. We knew the mile and a quarter would help her.”
The Alabama followed Dunbar Road’s last-out win in the Mother Goose (G2) seven weeks ago at Belmont. The bay filly is now 4-1-0 in five career starts, with total earnings of $587,900.