April 22, 2024

Dunbar Road crushes Alabama foes; Regal Glory, Varenka dead-heat in Lake Placid

Dunbar Road wins Alabama Stakes
Dunbar Road winning the 2019 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga (c) Adam Coglianese/NYRA

Dunbar Road bolstered her case for champion three-year-old filly with a powerful victory in Saturday’s $600,000 Alabama (G1), rallying to a 2 3/4-length decision under rainy conditions. A storm delayed the post parade and the pace was slow over Saratoga’s sloppy main track, but it made no difference as Dunbar Road proved much the best for owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown.

“It’s very special to win our first Alabama,” Brown said. “The Alabama and the Travers are the two biggest races here and to win one of them is very special.”

Jose Ortiz was up on the daughter of Quality Road and Dunbar Road has now won four times by open lengths, her lone setback being a troubled half-second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) the second time out. The bay lass was exiting her first stakes tally, a 2 1/2-length score in the June 29 Mother Goose (G2) at Belmont Park, and she more than doubled her bankroll to $587,900 after finishing the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:04.07.

“(With the weather) I was concerned about the experience because it is only the fifth start of her life, and the 1 1/4 miles coming from 1 1/16 miles, but she’s a good filly and she really handled it,” Brant said. “She’s very special.”

Favored at 8-5 among eight rivals, Dunbar Road is certainly in the mix for the Eclipse Award but still has work to do.

Champagne Anyone narrowly showed the way into the first turn and Ulele and Lady Apple were also up close contesting fractions in :24.14, :48.97 and 1:13.43. Dunbar Road rated toward the back of the pack along the inside and moved a couple paths out on the far turn as she launched her bid.

Point of Honor and Street Band advanced into contention leaving the far turn, but neither was a match for the oncoming winner. Dunbar Road angled widest of all and rolled to the lead with about a sixteenth of a mile remaining. Point of Honor, the 2-1 second choice, edged 7-1 Street Band by a nose for second. It was 5 3/4 lengths back to Off Topic in fourth, and Afleet Destiny, Champagne Anyone, Ulele and Lady Apple came next.

“I was hoping to go to the lead but the other horses broke well too and I just had to sit into the first turn, but she relaxed really good,” said Ortiz, who won his third straight Alabama (Elate and Eskimo Kisses). “At the five-eighths pole, I started working my way out and followed Javier (Castellano aboard Point of Honor) through the turn. It was a little wide but I didn’t want to be a hero and try to split horses. I felt like I had a lot of horse.”

“I was actually expecting to be more forwardly placed,” Brown added. “I told Jose with the lack of pace in the race, and the change in track conditions, that I’d be comfortable on or very close to the lead. I didn’t want to take any chances. I felt she was the best horse in the race and I didn’t want the weather pattern and track conditions to compromise our chances in the race.

“It wasn’t how I would have drawn it up. We got shuffled back early and I really wasn’t certain down the backside, with how far back she was, that we would win from there. She was just so much the best today. She was able to overcome everything.”

Bred in Kentucky by Jeffrey Drown, Dunbar Road was purchased for $350,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September sale. She’s the first stakes winner from the Bernardini mare Gift List and this is the female family of 2000 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, dam of 2009 Belmont Stakes runner-up and sire Dunkirk.

Regal Glory and jockey Luis Saez dead-heat with Varenka under Javiet Castellano in the Lake Placid Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on Saturday, August 17, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Earlier on the program, Regal Glory and Varenka reached the wire together under dark and stormy conditions in the $200,000 Lake Placid (G2). The review took a while but eventually a dead-heat was determined between the three-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile affair on good turf.

Regal Glory stalked a slow pace in third behind stablemate Blowout and advanced between runners to challenge in deep stretch, parlaying a favorable head-bob into her fourth stakes victory. Luis Saez was up on the Animal Kingdom filly for owner Paul Pompa Jr. and Brown and the chestnut extended her win streak to three, capturing the Penn Oaks and July 19 Lake George (G2) at Saratoga beforehand. Regal Glory’s only defeats were seconds in the Appalachian (G3) and Sweetest Chant (G3) earlier this season and she’s now earned $431,750 from a 7-5-2-0 record.

Varenka saved ground while rating behind splits of :26.36 and :51.10 and swing out to take the overland route into the stretch, closing extremely wide with a ferocious kick in the latter stages. After winning a July 14 allowance at the Spa, the thrice stakes-placed daughter of Ghostzapper notched her first black-type victory. Graham Motion trains the Augustin Stable homebred and Javier Castellano was up.

The final time was 1:43.68.

Oleksandra was the first of two stakes winners on the card for sire Animal Kingdom, mowing down rivals to post one-length triumph in the $100,000 Smart N Fancy at 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf. Joel Rosario was up on the Australian-bred five-year-old mare and Neil Drysdale conditions for Team Valor International.

Third in the July 21 Royal North (G2) at Woodbine, Oleksandra took advantage of a hot pace (:21.37 and :43.29) to record her first stakes victory and just missed the course record when stopping the teletimer in 1:00.40. Her career ledger now reads 11-5-2-2.