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Godolphin’s Wet Paint Hopes to Leave a Mark on Alabama

As much as the Kentucky Oaks (G1) is considered the distaff version of the Kentucky Derby (G1), in terms of distance it’s the Alabama Stakes (G1) that presents an identical challenge.

Just as the Run for the Roses is surrounded by the uncertainty of whether 3-year-old colts can handle the grueling 1 1/4-mile distance, it’s the same case for 3-year-old fillies in the 10-furlong Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.

None of the 10 entrants in the Aug. 19 143rd edition of the Alabama have raced at a mile and a quarter distance and how they handle that assignment should play a key role in determining who emerges victorious in a showdown that figures to have major Eclipse Award ramifications.

“You don’t know who will enjoy the trip,” said Michael Banahan, Godolphin USA’s director of bloodstock.

Banahan and trainer Brad Cox are both hopeful that Godolphin’s Wet Paint , the beaten favorite in the aforementioned Kentucky Oaks, will find the added distance of the Alabama much to her liking and spark a winning effort along the lines of her neck victory four weeks ago in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at the Spa.

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“We’ve been pleased with her since she arrived in Saratoga and she’s done nothing wrong all year. The run in the Coaching Club Oaks was impressive, especially with the pace in the race, which didn’t suit her. I thought she was very game that day and showed a big will to win,” Banahan said about the homebred daughter of Blame. “She looks great and Brad and his team are very happy with her.”

Wet Paint captured 1 of 3 starts at 2, but the daughter of Blame   reeled off a trio of stakes wins at Oaklawn Park, capped by a 2 1/2-length score in the Fantasy Stakes (G3), and was sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. The late-running filly settled for fourth in her initial start in a grade 1 stakes, three lengths behind fellow Godolphin runner Pretty Mischievous , who is trained by Brendan Walsh.

“I don’t think she liked the track and was caught out of her comfort zone being a little close to the pace. Thought she ran a good race, just missing third by a few strides,” Banahan said. “With the expectations from being the favorite some people may have been disappointed, but it wasn’t a bad race at all. She hasn’t let us down all year. Things just didn’t go right for her in the Oaks, but there’s enough time left in the year for her to make amends.”

After the Kentucky Oaks, Wet Paint could not catch Hoosier Philly  in the Monomoy Girl Stakes at Ellis Park and settled for second as the winner cruised along through a slow opening quarter-mile of :25.23.

In the CCA Oaks, Wet Paint was fifth and last behind a moderate pace of 1:12.59 but still managed to catch Alabama starter Sacred Wish  in an effort that bodes well for her chances at a 1 1/4-mile distance.

“The 10 furlongs looks like it may suit her, but you never know until they try it. It will probably be the only time these fillies will run that distance and we are cautiously optimistic that it will suit her well,” Banahan said. “You don’t know who will enjoy the trip but based on her style of running she should handle it. She’s a laid-back filly who comes from off the pace and we hope there’s enough pace to run at.”

A daughter of the Street Cry mare Sky Painter named for a Godolphin worker who touched the wet paint of a jockey statue with the colors of the stable’s 2021 Travers Stakes (G1) winner Essential Quality  , Wet Paint would regain her stature as division leader if she can pair grade 1 wins at Saratoga.

“She’s one of the better 3-year-old fillies and has already won a grade 1 at Saratoga. If she can add the Alabama, one of the most prestigious races of the year be it for fillies or colts, that would put her in a great position when it comes to Eclipse voting,” Banahan said. “It’s nice she has a win over the track. It takes a special filly to win both grade 1’s at Saratoga and we’re hopeful of a big show from her on Saturday.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a trio of fillies in Gambling Girl , Julia Shining , and Chocolate Gelato  as he bids for a third straight Alabama win and fifth overall.

Gambling Girl, a daughter of Dialed In   bred in New York by Gallagher’s Stud, was second in the Kentucky Oaks, losing by a neck. Then, nearly three months later, she finished third in the CCA Oaks, 8 3/4 lengths behind Wet Paint.

“She just didn’t fire,” Pletcher said about the CCA Oaks, where Gambling Girl was the 6-5 favorite. “I always felt the mile and a quarter would suit her and you don’t get many chances to try it. Hopefully she’ll step up and run like she did in the Kentucky Oaks.”

Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Julia Shining has not raced since the daughter of Curlin   was a fast-closing third in the April 7 Ashland Stakes (G1). The daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia has not raced in about 4 1/2 months, but that does not worry Pletcher.

“We’ve had pretty good success before in situations like this,” the Hall of Famer said about the layoff.

Repole Stabe’s Chocolate Gelato was a grade 1 winner at a mile as a 2-year-old, but in her lone start at 3, she was fourth in the June 11 Jersey Girl Stakes at six furlongs.

Black Type Thoroughbreds and Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, Christopher Dunn, and Anthony Spinazzola’s Sacred Wish has finished second in three of her last four starts for trainer George Weaver. The daughter of Not This Time   was originally graded stakes-placed when she finished second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) back in April.

The field also includes Yoshida Katsumi’s Ashland winner Defining Purpose , who won the Indiana Oaks (G3) for trainer Ken McPeek last time out; Richard Bahde’s Taxed , who was second in the Indiana Oaks after winning the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) for trainer Randy Morse; the Chad Brown-trained duo of Juddmonte’s Fireline  and Klaravich Stables’ Randomized ; and Valene Farms’ Sabra Tuff , who was fifth in the Monomoy Girl for trainer Dallas Stewart..

Entries: Alabama S. Presented by Keeneland Sales (G1)

Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, August 19, 2023, Race 9

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/4m
  • Dirt
  • $600,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 5:45 PM (local)

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