2018 Alabama Stakes Contenders & Odds at Saratoga

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NYRA Press Release | OTB Writer

Multiple graded stakes winner Midnight Bisou will look to get back on top as she leads a field of eight in the 138th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles, one of two stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Midnight Bisou

Midnight Bisou, owned by Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stable, and Allen Racing and trained by Steve Asmussen, is exiting a runner-up finish to Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22.

The Midnight Lute filly hasn't finished worse than third in eight career starts, which include victories in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks under the care of California-based trainer Bill Spawr. Asmussen took over training duties after Midnight Bisou ran third in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, crossing the wire behind Monomoy Girl and Grade 1 Travers-bound Wonder Gadot on May 4.

In her first start for her new barn, she cruised to a six-length victory in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 30 at Belmont Park before her rematch with Monomoy Girl in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

"The filly has consistently done extremely well and we're obviously very excited about her chances," said Asmussen of the Alabama.

Midnight Bisou's regular jockey, Hall of Famer Mike Smith, has the return call. The pair will break from post 3.

Asmussen will also be represented by Whispering Oaks Farm's She's a Julie, exiting a 5 ½-length win in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on July 5 at Prairie Meadows. Prior to that effort, the Elusive Quality filly won on June 3 at Churchill for the first time since her debut, holding on at the wire to win an optional-claimer by a neck.

"She's coming off a huge win and she's trained really well up here," said Asmussen. "Obviously, it's a big step up for her and caliber of competition, but she's done all the work."

2018 Alabama Stakes Odds & Entries

Race 9 on Saratoga's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:40 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Piedi Bianchi 15-1 John Velazquez Todd Pletcher
2 Eskimo Kisses 6-1 Jose Ortiz Kenneth McPeek
3 Midnight Bisou 7-5 Mike Smith Steven Asmussen
4 She's a Julie 9-2 Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steven Asmussen
5 Auspicious Babe 30-1 Florent Geroux Dallas Stewart
6 Figarella's Queen 15-1 Irad Ortiz, Jr. Brad Cox
7 Coach Rocks 10-1 Luis Saez Dale Romans
8 Talk Veuve to Me 5-2 Julien Leparoux Rodolphe Brisset

Talk Veuve to Me

Rodolphe Brisset trainee Talk Veuve to Me successfully stretched out to two turns last time out, drawing off in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at 1 1/16 miles by 4 ¾ lengths over fellow Alabama entrant Figarella's Queen. The July 14 race was the first stakes victory for the Violence filly, following runner-up finishes in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Eight Belles and one-mile Grade 1 Acorn this spring.

"We can't be overconfident, [but] you look at the numbers, the replays and the PPs, and we're right there," said Brisset, who co-owns Talk Veuve to Me with Team Valor International and Stephen McKay. "She deserves a shot.

"Last time, [she] was very impressive going for the first time around two turns, so if she can replicate that race and do it going a mile and a quarter, it could be an interesting race," he added. "Luckily for me, I've been able to ride her for the last six months; I breeze her all the time and I know the filly pretty well. She could actually be a better filly going around two turns."

Julien Leparoux will ride Talk Veuve to Me from the outside post.

Coach Rocks

Coach Rocks is entering the Alabama off a pair of second-place finishes to the talented Red Ruby for trainer Dale Romans and owners Roddy J. Valente, RAP Racing, and West Point Thoroughbreds. Winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in March, Coach Rocks finished seventh in the Kentucky Oaks before being beaten 4 ¾ and 13 lengths by Red Ruby in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, respectively.

Coach Rocks will have the services of jockey Luis Saez from post 7.

Auspicious Babe

Rock Ridge Racing's homebred Auspicious Babe will be giving up plenty of experience to the rest of the field in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles while making just her fourth career start for trainer Dallas Stewart.

"Why not? Just five or six other horses, and a mile and a quarter," Stewart said. "Has any of them run that far before? I think mine can. It's a Grade 1, and it'll make the whole family. It's the same thing like Unbridled Forever, same thing like Lemons Forever. You win one Grade 1 and it makes the whole family. The people that have the mare, have her [Auspicious Babe]. They have a farm, why not?"

Auspicious Babe debuted on May 4 after missing her 2-year-old season due to an ankle injury. She tired after a half-mile in her unveiling and remained towards the back of the pack throughout the one-mile maiden special weight.

The bay Kentucky-bred returned 23 days later and closed from mid-pack to break her maiden by 1 ¾ lengths against seven others at 1 1/6 miles. She returned over a month later and bested another field of seven scoring by a length at the wire after sitting a close stalking trip against conditional claimers.

"She was impressive the last two races," said Stewart. "She's a big, strong filly and I think she can go that far [1 1/4 miles]. She won the second time and I was like, `Let's try [the Alabama]. I think she can go that far.'

"It's really worth the shot. [If] she gets beat, we'll take her back and run her somewhere else. Regroup," he added. "She's just big and strong and she finishes a race. She's finished her last three races good at Churchill, that long stretch, she took them and got it done. I feel good about her."

Auspicious Babe will leave from post 5 with Florent Geroux aboard.

Piedi Bianchi

Piedi Bianchi will take a major step up on Saturday as she gets set to make her second start of the year.

Owned by Nice Guys Stables, Madaket Stables, Jack Bick, and Jay Oringer, the Indiana-bred filly by Overanalyze was originally entered in the Indiana First Lady for state-breds at Indiana Grand on Wednesday as well as Thursday's eighth race at the Spa, a one-mile allowance optional claiming event, before her connections opted for the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1.

Piedi Bianchi was Grade 1-placed as a 2-year-old, finishing second to Moonshine Memories in the Del Mar Debutante, and third in the Chandelier last fall under the tutelage of California-based trainer Doug O'Neill. She closed out her year with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was beaten 5 ¾ lengths by eventual champion Caledonian Road, and a third-place finish to Dream Tree in the Grade 1 Starlet in December.

She subsequently moved east, making her debut for the Pletcher barn in a six-furlong allowance race on June 24 at Belmont Park. In that effort, the gray filly raced wide and made up ground late, but couldn't catch the top two and finished third by four lengths.

"I thought her comeback race was probably better than it looks on paper and we feel like this is a race we want to take a chance in," said Pletcher.

"My concern is always that we're going from one race off a layoff to a mile and a quarter," he added. "She was one of the better 2-year-old fillies on the West Coast and she's trained consistently well since we've had her, so hopefully we have her fit enough for the assignment."

Piedi Bianchi was an $80,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase last year, and boasts $244,700 in earnings with a 1-2-3 record from seven starts. At 15-1 on the morning line, she will be ridden in the Alabama by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the rail.

Rounding out the field for the Alabama are Eskimo Kisses, fourth in the Coaching Club last time out, and Figarella's Queen, who switched from the turf to win an optional-claiming contest by a length prior to the Indiana Oaks.


Alabama Stakes Pre-draw Notes

Alabama Stakes early favorite Midnight Bisou turns in `easy half'

Multiple graded stakes winner Midnight Bisou put in the final touches Monday morning as the prospective favorite in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 18. Midnight Bisou breezed four furlongs in 51.62 seconds for a final blowout in preparation for the race.

"She breezed an easy half-mile for the Alabama and the filly has consistently done extremely well and we're obviously very excited about her chances," said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Midnight Bisou, owned by Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing, is exiting a runner-up finish to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22. It was the second meeting of the fillies, following the Kentucky Oaks, won by Monomoy Girl. Wonder Gadot, currently pointing to the Grade 1 Travers, was a half-length back, while Midnight Bisou was third, beaten 4 ¼ lengths.

Following the Kentucky Oaks, the Midnight Lute filly was transferred to Asmussen for an East Coast campaign. She returned to action in impressive fashion with a six-length win in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 30 at Belmont Park.

Horse Racing Betting Bonus

Also expected to enter for Asmussen in the Alabama is Whispering Oaks Farm's She's a Julie. She breezed four furlongs in 49.67 Sunday morning on the Oklahoma training track.

Following a seventh-place finish last year in the Debutante to end her juvenile campaign, the Elusive Quality filly made her 2018 debut at Fair Grounds, where she ran sixth in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra and fifth in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Finishing second in her first start at Churchill Downs in an allowance optional claiming race in May, she won an allowance optional claiming race on June 3 at Churchill before impressively winning the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks last out on July 4 by 5 ½ lengths.

"She's coming off a huge win and she's trained really well up here," said Asmussen. "Obviously, it's a big step up for her and caliber of competition, but she's done all the work."

Asmussen also reported Tight Ten, who ran second in Sunday's Grade 2 Saratoga Special, was in good order following the race, but most likely will not target a start in the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful on September 3.

"He ran a nice race against a good horse and came out second best. The Hopeful would be very doubtful for him. I don't think I'll run him back in three weeks."

Lyrical Lady, who finished a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Adirondack, also exited her race in good order as Asmussen would look to evaluate plans for the filly.

"Obviously, it was a disappointing run there," he said. "I thought the track was extremely deep from the times there were shown Saturday, so we'll just try to regroup."

Talk Veuve to Me breezes ahead of 1 ¼-mile test in G1 Alabama

Grade 3 Indiana Oaks winner Talk Veuve to Me put in her last work before Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at 1 ¼-miles, breezing four furlongs on the Oklahoma training track Monday morning.

Trainer Rodolphe Brisset said her work, clocked in 47.95 seconds that was the second-fastest of 54, was impressive. Talk Veuve to Me has breezed three times since arriving at Saratoga from Keeneland in July, including a five-furlong breeze on the main track August 6.

"She got a good half-a-mile and we're happy with the move. It looked like she cooled out good and hopefully she'll look good tomorrow," Brisset said. "It seems like she has a mind about the track. She's an easy horse to be around and she's acclimated very, very good."

Talk Veuve to Me has only raced five times but has finished first or second in all three of her stakes appearances since breaking her maiden at second asking on March 25 at Fair Grounds. Since then, the Kentucky bred ran second by three-quarters of a length to Mia Mischief in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 4 at Churchill.

Stretching out to a mile, Talk Veuve to Me ran second to leading 3-year-old filly division contender Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9. Anxious to stretch her out to two turns, Brisset entered her in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks on July 14 at Indiana Grand Race Course, and she responded with a 4 ¾-length win for her first stakes victory.

"We can't be overconfident, [but] you look at the numbers, the replays and the PPs, and we're right there," Brisset said. "She deserves a shot in that race. We'll see what happens with it being a mile and a quarter.

"Last time was very impressive going for the first time around two turns, so if she can replicate that race and do it going a mile and a quarter, it could be an interesting race. Luckily for me, I've been able to ride her for the last six months; I breeze her all the time and I know the filly pretty well. She could actually be a better filly going around two turns. She's won on the lead, she's won while rating. She has some tactical [speed] and shouldn't be too far from the front. Maybe she'll be on the lead, we'll see how the draw goes."

Also expected to enter the Alabama are Midnight Bisou and She's a Julie, both for trainer Steve Asmussen; Coach Rocks, winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Pak Oaks in March; lightly raced Auspicious Babe in her stakes debut; Indiana Oaks runner-up Figarella's Queen; and Eskimo Kisses, fourth in both the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

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