SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After tasting defeat for the first time last out in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, Malathaat regained her winning form by launching a four-wide stretch rally and fending off a late bid from Clairiere to capture the 141st running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for sophomore fillies going 10 furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Malathaat conquered the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs to open a prosperous 3-year-old campaign.
A last-out effort in the CCA Oaks on July 24 saw Malathaat set a pressured pace before being collared in late stretch to miss by a head behind Maracuja. But the talented daughter of Curlin vindicated herself in the Alabama, becoming the fifth filly in the past decade to capture the Kentucky Oaks-Alabama double.
Pletcher said an outside post and stalking trip allowed Malathaat to best demonstrate her tremendous talent.
“Last time, it was difficult to figure out the right tactics and we kind of got tag teamed, as you’d expect to be in a prohibitive-favorite situation,” said Pletcher, who picked up a third Alabama victory. “Today, we drew a better post, and we were able to let her find her rhythm and she showed why she’s the best 3-year-old filly in the country.”
Malathaat stumbled slightly leaving the gate under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez but quickly recovered as two-time winner Played Hard led the seven-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.97 seconds over the good and harrowed main track. Graded stakes winner Will’s Secret was a length back in second, while Malathaat settled in fifth position in the two path, about three lengths off the frontrunner.
Played Hard maintained her advantage through a half-mile in 49.12 with Velazquez nudging his charge as she met even terms with rival Maracuja.
Through three-quarters in 1:13.27, Malathaat inched her way up into fourth around the far turn and made a sweeping four-wide move in upper stretch while dual graded stakes-winner Army Wife confronted Played Hard.
Malathaat collared Army Wife just inside the furlong maker and drew away to a 1 ½-length win in a final time of 2:02.59. Clairiere closed late under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to capture second, a half-length ahead of Army Wife.
Velazquez said having a target to chase benefitted Malathaat.
“Last time, there was no speed at all. So, we made a decision to go to the first turn and if she was on the lead, then she was on the lead,” Velazquez said. “She was on the lead and everybody chased us. Today, it was easier. The speed showed up. I saved the ground in the first turn. I didn’t chase. I knew I was comfortable where I was and she did it for me.”
Velazquez said he kept a close eye on runner-up Clairiere, who trailed the field down the backstretch.
“I was thinking that Irad’s horse was coming from way back and I was expecting that,” Velazquez said. “She was not close to the pace, so in the back of my head, I was thinking that’s a horse who can come back, so you have to watch out for it.”
Pletcher said he never felt any concern with stretching out to 10 furlongs.
“We never felt like the distance would be a problem,” Pletcher said. “The weather got a little tricky and they made the decision to go around three times, I think, with the tractors and harrow it. It left it a pretty deep and demanding surface, but that probably played to her benefit at the end of the day.
“With the exception of the stumble at the start, I felt pretty good the whole way,” Pletcher added. “She recovered and got into a good position. She was in the clear. The thing we wanted today was to allow her to run her race and get into that big stride she has and a comfortable rhythm and keep coming.”
Pletcher did not rule out training Malathaat up to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 6 at Del Mar and said he would consult with Shadwell Stable general manager Rick Nichols.
Malathaat, who returned $3.10 as the 1-2 favorite, banked $330,000 in victory, which enhanced her lifetime earnings to $1,555,150 through a 7-6-1-0 record.
Runner-up Clairiere pleased her Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who expressed a strong desire to make the fellow Curlin filly a Grade 1-winner. She garnered Grade 1 black type when third in the CCA Oaks.
“She definitely represented really well today,” Asmussen said. “She deserves – and I want her – to win a Grade 1 so bad. The winner’s a great mare. Obviously she [Clairiere] ran solid today. There was a little crowding in the first turn, Irad had to take way more hold of her than he wanted to. But it was a better trip than the CCA Oaks. She showed a lot of quality today and just how game she really is.”
Will’s Secret, Played Hard, Crazy Beautiful and Maracuja completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Malathaat is the first offspring out of the A.P. Indy broodmare Dreaming of Julia, who captured the 2012 Grade 1 Frizette and the 2013 Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for Pletcher.
Shadwell purchased Malathaat for $1.05 million at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the $120,000 Summer Colony, a nine-furlong main track event for older fillies and mares who have not won a graded stakes race in 2021. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Race Course Press Release
Photo: Malathaat, (NYRA Photo)