Swiss Skydiver Headlines Alabama Stakes at Saratoga for Automatic Berth into Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff Live this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on NBC
Photo of Swiss Skydiver winning the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) is courtesy of Benoit Photo
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (Aug. 13, 2020) – Led by multiple graded-stakes winner Swiss Skydiver, a talented field of seven 3-year-old fillies has been entered for Saturday’s 140th running of the 1 ¼-mile, $500,000 Alabama (G1), which will be broadcast live on NBC at 5 p.m. ET from Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Alabama winner will earn an automatic berth into the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The one-hour program, which also will include live coverage of the $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational on turf, marks the sixth telecast this year in the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In - presented by America’s Best Racing” on NBC and NBCSN from some of North America’s most iconic racetracks. The series leads to the 37th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., scheduled for Nov. 6-7 on NBC and NBCSN. The complete series TV schedule can be accessed here.
NBC Sports’ coverage of the Alabama will feature commentary and discussion led by host Ahmed Fareed and analyst Randy Moss from NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Analyst and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who won 15 Breeders’ Cup races, including five victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), joins the broadcast from his home in Florida. Reporters Laffit Pincay III, Donna Brothers and Matt Bernier will be on-site at Saratoga.
Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver has been one of the top-rated 3-year-old fillies this year with three graded-stakes wins for trainer Kenny McPeek. A chestnut daughter of Daredevil, Swiss Skydiver reeled off consecutive scores in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on March 28, the Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park on May 12 and a front-running, 4-length win in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on June 6. McPeek had her take on male rivals next in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on July 11. She held the lead through the top of the stretch in the Blue Grass before being passed by Art Collector, and wound up second, beaten 3 ½ lengths. Tyler Gaffalione has the mount on Swiss Skydiver.
"Once we got her going to two turns, she really figured it out and it clicked," McPeek said. "The further she goes, the stronger she gets. She's been a real sturdy filly. She eats really well and she's easy to be around. The Alabama is a great race. It's a race I've won before and I would love to win it again."
McPeek, who won the 2018 Alabama with Eskimo Kisses, also has entered Walking L Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Envoutante, who has two wins this year, and was recently third in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on July 11. Envoutante is French for “bewitching.” Jose Ortiz will ride Envoutante, seeking his fourth consecutive Alabama win.
Among the other challengers in the Alabama is the lightly raced Crystal Ball, trained by Bob Baffert. Owned by WinStar Stablemates Racing Inc., Crystal Ball broke her maiden in her second try by 6 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita on June 14. Confident in her abilities despite inexperience, Baffert shipped her to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. She hooked up with the favorite Paris Lights and battled side by side against her for the last quarter of a mile in one of the most exciting stretch duels of the year. Paris Lights prevailed in a head-bobbing finish. Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Crystal Ball.
Also lightly raced is Juddmonte Farms’ Bonny South. Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Bonny South won her first two starts this year, taking an optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 15 and then stepping into stakes company for the first time with a 2 ¼-length win in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in New Orleans on March 21. Next, she faced her toughest competition yet in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes. Bonny South chased the leaders into the stretch but could not sustain a drive to the wire and faded to fourth.
Todd Pletcher trained back-to-back winners of the Alabama in 2013 with Princess of Sylmar and in 2014 with Stopchargingmaria. On Saturday, he will start Robert and Lawana Low’s Spice Is Nice. A chestnut daughter of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin, Spice Is Nice made a smashing career debut on Jan. 12, breaking her maiden in a 1-mile race by 12 lengths at Gulfstream Park. She finished second a month later in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) but was a disappointing fifth behind Swiss Skydiver in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Spice Is Nice returned after a more than three-month layoff to win a 1 1/16-mile optional allowance race at Belmont Park on July 3. She will be ridden by John Velazquez.
The Estate of Harvey A. Clark and Paul Braverman’s Harvey’s Lil Goil has won three of her last four starts, including the 1 1/8-mile Regret Stakes (G3) on turf at Churchill Downs on June 27. Harvey’s Lil Goil, a gray/roan daughter of 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah, is trained by Bill Mott, who in 2011 saddled Royal Delta to win the Alabama and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) (race name Breeders’ Cup Distaff reinstated in 2013). Harvey’s Lil Goil will be ridden by Junior Alvarado.
Completing the Alabama field is Susan Moulton’s Fire Coral, who won back-to-back races at Oaklawn this winter but has been off the board in her last three starts, including a fourth in Indiana Oaks (G3) on July 8 for trainer Steve Asmussen. Fire Coral is a dark bay daughter of Curlin, who Asmussen trained to Horse of the Year titles in 2007 and 2008. Ricardo Santana Jr. will ride Fire Coral.
West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, William Sandbrook and Cheryl Manning’s Decorated Invader headlines the eight-horse field in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby for 3-year-olds. Trained by Christophe Clement, Decorated Invader is three-for-three in 2020, which includes a 1 ¼-length victory last out on July 18 in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.
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