The feature race at Saratoga on Saturday is the 1m 2f Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for three-year-old fillies (22:43). Bob Baffert has trained the winner before way back in 1999, but Crystal Ball can end that long wait.
This daughter of Malibu Moon was a desperately unlucky loser in the American Oaks last time out. Crystal Ball bravely tried to make all from the front. When headed before the final furlong, she rallied superbly and went down fighting by a head.
Owner companion Paris Light just held on and is a shorter price un the Kentucky Oaks. Given how unlucky she was to lose but run such a smashing race on just her third career start, Crystal Ball looks well worth another crack at this level.
Prior to her agonising American Oaks defeat, she had bolted up by over six lengths at Santa Anita. There is definitely more to come from Crystal Ball.
Javier Castellano is once again aboard and Baffert is on a 50 per cent strike rate with his runners over the last 14 days at the time of writing.
With tons of scope for further progress, Crystal Ball gets our vote to win the Alabama Stakes now stepped up in trip.
If the Kentucky Oaks betting has any bearing on this, then Swiss Skydiver has obvious claims. One of two in the race trained by Kenneth McPeek, this Daredevil filly has won four of her seven starts.
They include a hat-trick of victories in Group races this season. Swiss Skydiver ran an out an impressive winner of both the Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Oaks races.
However, she comes into the Alabama Stakes on the back of a loss. Not a narrow one like Crystal Ball, but a 3 1/2 lengths defeat in open company against Art Collector.
While her being back against her own sex here is a plus, Swiss Skydiver was getting 5lb from the winner last time out. Race terms were in her favor but she couldn’t justify favoritism.
It has also already been a tough campaign for Swiss Skydiver. This is her sixth start and, although at least showing in all of those, she may not have the same potential at Crystal Ball.
For that reason, Swiss Skydiver is taken on. However, it would be no surprise at all to see her involved in the finish of this.
While Todd Pletcher’s Spice Is Nice and Brad Cox trained Juddmonte filly Bonny South are shorter in the Kentucky Oaks market, McPeek has another entrant here in Envoutante.
She finished ahead of Bonny South when third in a Grade 1 at Keeneland and last in action. On that basis and the fact her pedigree is better suited to this test, Envoutante can hit the frame.
Although no match for Speech, the way she closed on the winner and runner-up initially hinted that further would suit. That is what Envoutante gets here.
Prior to her show at Keeneland, she won a minor event at Churchill Downs. The problem with Bonny South, who Envoutante finished two lengths in front of in the Ashland Stakes, is her speedy sire.
Munnings is better known for producing sprinters. While her stamina may give out, Envoutante has more in her breeding.
As Spice Is Nice has so much ground, 10 lengths, to make up on Swiss Skydiver, she too is taken on. Envoutante could well be involved to place or show, though.