October 20, 2020

Distance looks right for Point of Honor in Alabama

Point of Honor and jockey Javier Castellano win the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico on May 17, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson

Point of Honor‘s roadblock to victory in last month’s Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) was the Chad Brown-trained Guarana. In Saturday’s $600,000 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, Point of Honor’s most serious rival might again hail from the Brown barn, this time Dunbar Road.

However, the Alabama’s 1 1/4-mile distance might work most in favor of Point of Honor, a daughter of Curlin who captured the nine-furlong Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico and was only a length behind Guarana over a similar trip in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

“She’s bred to handle it and this is the race we’ve had in the back of our minds for several months now,” trainer George Weaver said. “It’s going to be up to her and (jockey) Javier (Castellano) to figure out how to get the win. She was second in the Oaks last time. She has to go get it done, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.”

Dunbar Road has won three of four, including the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose (G2) at Belmont Park on June 29. She also finished ahead of Point of Honor in their only prior meeting, in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in March. Dunbar Road finished second, a half-length behind Champagne Anyone, with Point of Honor two lengths behind the winner in fourth.

Champagne Anyone has struggled since that Gulfstream victory, finishing a distant fourth in both the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks. Lady Apple, on the other hand, rebounded from her third in the Kentucky Oaks to capture the July 5 Iowa Oaks (G3) by a half-length over Ulele, who had previously lost to Point of Honor in the Black-Eyed Susan by the same margin. Also a daughter of Curlin, Lady Apple had earlier notched the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn.

Street Band has endured a hit-or-miss campaign so far this season, but shows two dominating wins in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Indiana Oaks (G3) for trainer Larry Jones, who captured the 2008 Alabama with eventual champion Proud Spell.

The field is rounded out by Off Topic, Kelsey’s Cross, and Afleet Destiny.

The $200,000 Lake Placid (G2), for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, features Regal Glory and Blowout, who were separated by a half-length in last month’s Lake George (G3). Neither filly has finished worse than second.

The multiple graded-placed Varenka enters off a late-rallying victory against entry-level allowance foes the first weekend of the Saratoga meet for trainer Graham Motion.

“I thought we’d take one step at a time and that’s why we went to the allowance race,” Motion said. “She drew very poorly, so she took the worst of it that day. I think she’s done well since then and it’s probably the right time to get back into a graded stake. She’s definitely graded caliber. She’s proven that.”