SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat will look to turn the tables on Maracuja, who provided the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner her first career defeat last out in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama, a 10-furlong main track test for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
The prestigious event for sophomore fillies honors horse owner William Cottrell, who requested that the race be named after his home state of Alabama. As one of the oldest American stakes races for females, the historic test has seen many notable winners over the years, including Hall of Fame fillies Miss Woodford , Beldame , Top Flight , Tempted , Gamely , Shuvee , Mom’s Command , Go for Wand , Sky Beauty , Heavenly Prize , Silverbulletday , and Royal Delta .
Malathaat saw Maracuja snap her undefeated streak in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24, where the blue-blooded daughter of Curlin went into the gate as the 1-5 favorite and set a pressured pace down the backstretch before engaging in a dramatic stretch rally, coming up a head shy of victory.
“I’m hoping that we get on the outside and stay clear. Those other two fillies [Maracuja and Clairiere] just kept tag teaming her and she never had a chance to take a breath,” said Shadwell Stables’ General Manager Rick Nichols. “I think the additional distance will be a benefit to her as well. Her pedigree certainly points towards that direction.”
Prior to the Coaching Club American Oaks, Malathaat was a hard-fought winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on April 30 at Churchill Downs, giving Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth triumph in the prestigious event. She made a successful seasonal bow when capturing the Grade 1 Ashland on April 3 at Keeneland.
During her juvenile campaign, Malathaat notched stakes triumphs at Aqueduct in the Tempted and Grade 2 Demoiselle after giving Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez his 2,000th Belmont Park victory in a first-out maiden special weight victory in October at Belmont Park.
“She showed how much ability she had in the Demoiselle that day,” Nichols said. “Also, it’s just kind of demonstrated how much class she has as well. She tried hard in the Kentucky Oaks and that was pretty impressive, too. She was challenged in the stretch and still ran hard and won. Even though she got beat last time, she’s never had a bad race. She doesn’t know she got beat.”
A victory in the Alabama would make Malathaat the fifth filly in the past decade to capture the Kentucky Oaks-Alabama double.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Malathaat is the first progeny out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia and was purchased for $1.05 million from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“She was just such a gorgeous filly with great conformation, Nichols recalled. “As soon as I saw her, I knew Sheikh Hamdan would love her. He’s always been partial to fillies. It was obvious from when I saw her that I knew she would be one that he would love.”
Velazquez, a three-time winner of the Alabama, retains the mount from post 6.
While Malathaat seeks redemption, Maracuja will try to build off her CCA Oaks victory with another prominent Saratoga conquest. A triumph in the Alabama would make Maracuja the fifth horse in the last decade to score the CCA Oaks-Alabama double, joining Questing , Princess of Sylmar , Stopchargingmaria  and Songbird .
Maracuja, a gray or roan Honor Code filly trained by Rob Atras, was a distant seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks after breaking slowly from the gate and settling toward the rear of the field along the rail.
A winner at third asking going 6 ½ furlongs at Aqueduct under Kendrick Carmouche, it didn’t take long for Maracuja to display two turn capabilities when finishing a good second to Search Results in the Grade 2 Gazelle on April 3 at the Big A.
“When Kendrick got off her the first time she won he said that he couldn’t wait for us to stretch her out in distance. He knew right away,” Atras said. “You always hope for the best, but our goal was always to target the Coaching Club and the Alabama, so it’s nice that things are coming together.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. rides from post 4.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle Stonestreet Stables’ graded stakes winner Clairiere in search of her first Grade 1 triumph.
Never worse than fourth in seven lifetime starts, the homebred daughter of Curlin, out of the three-time Grade 1-winning Bernardini mare Cavorting, finished third in her last two efforts. Prior to finishing third beaten 5 ¾ lengths in the CCA Oaks, Clairiere rounded out the trifecta in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 26 at Belmont Park, where she stumbled at the start and rated at the rear of the five-horse field before making a three-wide move around the far turn, finishing 1 ¼ lengths behind Zaajel.
Fourth beaten three lengths in the Kentucky Oaks, Clairiere seeks her first victory since the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on February 13 at Fair Grounds Race Course.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride from post 3.
Trainer Kenny McPeek has saddled two of the past three winners of the Alabama with Eskimo Kisses  and Swiss Skydiver  and will attempt to one up his record with Phoenix Thoroughbred III’s Crazy Beautiful.
The well-traveled gray or roan daughter of third-crop sire Liam’s Map has scored against graded stakes company in three of her last four starts.
Following a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 27, she was never a factor in the Kentucky Oaks finishing a distant tenth. But her brilliance was recaptured in her following two efforts, winning the Grade 3 Summertime Oaks on May 30 at Santa Anita ahead of a six-length romp in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 3 at Delaware Park.
Crazy Beautiful will break from post 1 under Jose Ortiz.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Army Wife boasts four lifetime wins all over different tracks and will seek to add Saratoga to her list of oval conquests for leading trainer Mike Maker.
The bay daughter of Declaration of War was a fourth out maiden winner going seven furlongs in October at Churchill Downs before defeating winners at Gulfstream Park two starts later. After a distant third in the Gazelle, she picked up scores in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan on May 14 at Pimlico and the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on July 2 at Prairie Meadows.
“She doesn’t need to take her racetrack with her, we’re just trying to pick the right spots with her and it’s worked out well. I hope we have a winning trip,” Maker said.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who rode Swiss Skydiver in the 2020 Alabama, will seek a second straight Alabama win aboard Army Wife from post 7.
Trainer Dallas Stewart sends out Will’s Secret after a disappointing sixth in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks on July 7 last out.
Owned and bred by Willis Horton Racing, Will’s Secret’s uncharacteristic performance in the Indiana Oaks came after two Grade 1-placings when third to Malathaat in the Ashland on April 3 at Keeneland and the Kentucky Oaks.
Following an off-the-turf maiden conquest in December at Fair Grounds, the daughter of 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge captured the Martha Washington and Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.
Veteran jockey Jon Court ships to Saratoga to pilot Will’s Secret from post 2.
Completing the field is Rigney Racing’s Played Hard, who makes her stakes debut for trainer Phil Bauer.
The bay daughter of leading sire Into Mischief has not lost in two starts around two turns. After three starts at six furlongs, Played Hard handled a stretch out to 1 1/16 miles with flying colors winning a June 20 maiden special weight at Churchill Downs by 5 ¼ lengths. In her most recent effort, she defeated winners going nine furlongs on July 22 at Saratoga.
“The sprint mentality has gone away from her,” Bauer said. “She’s always been a horse with natural speed but her first two-turn effort at Churchill, she was a little keen down the backside when we tried to rate her. She’s come a long way as far as that; hopefully it’ll make her a better racehorse. She showed it in her race here and obviously she’s had everything her way, but I think good horses can create trips that look like they are given to them, but that’s not necessarily the case.”
Jockey Luis Saez will ride from post 5.
The Alabama is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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Saratoga Race Course Press Release
Photo: Malathaat (inside) and Maracuja, (Elsa Lorieul Photo)