Eight sophomore fillies have been entered to go 1 1/4 miles on Saturday at Saratoga in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1). The race features both MIDNIGHT BISOU and TALK VEUVE TO ME, neither of whom have been unplaced in their careers thus far.
Midnight Bisou makes her third start for trainer Steve Asmussen after beginning her career for conditioner Bill Spawr. The Midnight Lute lass posted a three-race win streak in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1) before rallying from the back of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) after a rough trip to be third on the wire.
Subsequently transferred to Asmussen, the dark bay miss romped by six lengths in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2) before once more facing Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) most recently on July 22. Midnight Bisou again failed to catch that rival, running second by three lengths under returning jockey Mike Smith.
“The filly has consistently done extremely well and we’re obviously very excited about her chances,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen is double-handed in the 138th edition of the Alabama, as he’ll also send out SHE’S A JULIE. The Elusive Quality filly enters this spot off a 5 1/2-length score in the Iowa Oaks (G3) and keeps Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle.
“She’s coming off a huge win and she’s trained really well up here,” Asmussen said. “Obviously, it’s a big step up for her and caliber of competition, but she’s done all the work.”
Talk Veuve to Me will break from the far outside post for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. The dark bay daughter of Violence broke her maiden by 11 lengths in March, finished second in both the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) and Acorn Stakes (G1), and then stretched out past a mile for the first time to romp by 4 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks (G3) last out on July 14. Julien Leparoux was aboard for the first time in the Indiana Oaks and retains the mount.
“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. 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.”
ESKIMO KISSES is looking to turn the tables on Midnight Bisou after running fourth behind that filly in their past two outings. The Kenny McPeek-trained chestnut was fourth in the Kentucky Oaks, a half-length behind Midnight Bisou’s third, and then filled that same spot in the CCA Oaks last out, this time 5 1/2 lengths adrift of Midnight Bisou’s runner-up performance. Prior to those to efforts, Eskimo Kisses was second in both the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Ashland Stakes (G1) in her first forays against stakes competition. Jose Ortiz has the call on the To Honor and Serve filly.
PIEDI BIANCHI returns to stakes competition while making just her second start of the year for new trainer Todd Pletcher. The gray daughter of Overanalyze began her career in California with Doug O’Neill, but was switched to Pletcher for an East Coast campaign. Running in the Golden State as a juvenile, Piedi Bianchi finished second in the Del Mar Debutante (G1), third in the Chandelier Stakes (G1), fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and third in the Starlet Stakes (G1). She made her sophomore bow June 24 at Belmont Park, rallying for third against allowance/optional claiming rivals. Jockey John Velazquez stays in the saddle.
Like Eskimo Kisses, FIGARELLA’S QUEEN will attempt to get the best of a rival in the Alabama. The opponent is Talk Veuve to Me after that miss easily held Figarella’s Queen to second in the Indiana Oaks last out. The Brad Cox trainee was making just her second graded start and only her third race on the main track. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be in the irons for the first here.
COACH ROCKS prevailed in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) following an eight-length maiden win earlier this season, but couldn’t carry that forward into the Kentucky Oaks. Finishing seventh in the Run for the Lilies, the Dale Romans pupil rebounded to be second in both the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) and Delaware Oaks (G3) in her past pair. The Oxbow filly had Luis Saez aboard for all but her most recent race and reunites with the jockey Saturday.
AUSPICIOUS BABE rounds out the field while making her stakes bow in the Alabama. Trained by Dallas Stewart, the Bodemeister bay miss ran seventh in her debut, broke her maiden by 1 3/4 lengths and captured an allowance/optional claimer by a length. All three races took place at Churchill Downs, with the latter two wins coming under returning jockey Florent Geroux.