Curalina and I’m a Chatterbox are set for a rematch in Saturday’s $600,000 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, four weeks after a controversial first meeting between the pair in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1).
In the 1 1/8-mile CCA Oaks, I’m a Chatterbox, who had led from the start, drifted out into the on-coming Curalina approaching the wire. After a photo had revealed I’m a Chatterbox the winner by a nose, the stewards took another look at the stretch run and determined that the physical contact between them was enough to warrant a disqualification.
The elevation of Curalina to the winner’s circle kept the Todd Pletcher trainee a perfect two-for-two in stakes company following an earlier score in the Acorn (G1) at Belmont over a mile. A daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Curalina has the right pedigree to succeed on the step up to 1 1/4 miles.
The CCA Oaks marked the first start for I’m a Chatterbox since her third-place run in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in May, won by stablemate and fellow Alabama entrant Lovely Maria. Winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and two other stakes last winter, I’m a Chatterbox might find the added distance too far as a daughter of sprint specialist Munnings.
Lovely Maria, a sharp winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Ashland (G1), looks to rebound off a poor showing in the Delaware Oaks (G2), where she finished fifth as the overwhelming 3-10 favorite. Trainer Larry Jones attributed the performance to a virus that had been spreading at his Delaware Park barn. She, too, is by a sprint influence, Majesticperfection, but saw out nine furlongs well enough at Churchill Downs to suggest she might get the extra furlong of the Alabama with a return to her best form.
One filly sure to like a mile and a quarter is Include Betty, the deep-closing winner of the Mother Goose (G1) and Fantasy (G3) this season. Down 16 lengths at one point in the CCA Oaks, she rallied to finish third, two lengths behind the aforementioned duo of Curalina and I’m a Chatterbox.
Outsiders in the Alabama field are Danette, fourth in the CCA Oaks; Embellish the Lace, a likely pace player here after dueling and wilting in the Mother Goose; and Sweetgrass, a check-getter in the Indiana Oaks (G2) and Iowa Oaks (G3) in her last two starts.
The supporting feature Saturday is the $100,000 Troy for older horses going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Shore Runner, who was just up to win the $100,000 Lucky Coin over the course in distance last month, is the likely favorite over recent Highlander (G2) upsetter Go Blue Or Go Home and multiple graded stakes winner Something Extra.
(Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)