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Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The "Summer at Saratoga" series continues Saturday afternoon (NBC Sports Network, 5-6 p.m.) with a pair of Grade 1 stakes races, the $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational on turf and the $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on dirt.

The 13-horse Sword Dancer field includes Phipps Stable star Boisterous (5-2), the morning line favorite who won the Grade 1 Man O'War last month at Belmont Park. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount for trainer Shug McGaughey.

The field is strong with top challengers Big Blue Kitten (4-1) and Jersey Joe Bravo coming in from Monmouth to ride the homebred Kitten's Joy horse for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the current leading owners at the Spa meet.  In addition, Big Blue Kitten's trainer Chad Brown has been nearly unbeatable training on the turf this summer. Stellar turf jockey Javier Castellano will be aboard Twilight Eclipse (5-1) who finished behind Boisterous in the Man O'War for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Tom Albertrani. D. Wayne Lukas will run the ever present Optimizer (6-1), who is still searching for his first Grade 1 victory.

If you're looking for a long shot play in the Sword Dancer, Tannery (20-1) is a consideration, as he has an excuse for his last race hitting the gate at the break, and fared very well in his two prior races. He has the pedigree to go long and might be worth putting him underneath on some exotic tickets.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Boisterous; 2-Big Blue Kitten and 3-Tannery

The Alabama is a matchup of super trainers Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert, both entering talented 3-year-old fillies with sight set on the divisional championship.  Baffert won the race in 1999 with Silverbulletday and Pletcher is looking for his first Alabama with 11 starters in nine previous Alabamas.

Pletcher's Princess of Sylmar will look to add to her Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks victories with a win in the Alabama. The 3-5 favorite has looked much the best and would likely claim the 3-year-old filly crown with a win on Saturday. Pletcher doesn't feel that the added distance should affect his filly. "She should excel with the added distance," said Pletcher of Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior.

Baffert will counter with his filly Fiftyshadesofhay (2-1), second choice on the morning line and winner of the Grade 2 Black-eyed Susan on Preakness weekend at Pimlico and the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows last month. The Pulpit filly out of a Real Quiet mare should have no issues with the 1 1/4-mile trip around the Spa oval. Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez will be aboard the talented filly with the Southern California connections.

Looking for a surprise in the Alabama? Don't count on it as the top two look tough to beat, but Kiaran McLaughlin has entered an interesting filly, Carnival Court (15-1) for Darley Stable, who will run on Lasix for the first time. The lightly raced Street Sense filly could surprise in the Alabama. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. who was aboard last year's Alabama winner, Questing, will be in the irons on Carnival Court.

I'm looking for the upset in the Alabama even though the Princess looks awfully tough:

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Fiftyshadesofhay; 2-Princess of Sylmar and 3-Carnival Court 

The field for the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama:

PP

Horse

Jockey

WGT

Trainer

Odds

1

Tell a Great Story

Lezcano

121

Correas

12-1

2

Montana Native

Alvarado

121

McPeek

10-1

3

Galloping Giraffe

Maragh

121

Pletcher

20-1

4

Princess of Sylmar

Castellano

121

Pletcher

3-5

5

Carnival Court

Ortiz, Jr.

121

McLaughlin

15-1

6

Fiftyshadesofhay

Velazquez

121

Baffert

2-1

 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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Horse Racing
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