Peter Brant's Dunbar Road proved a deserving 8-5 favorite in Saturday's rendition of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, skipping over a sloppy Saratoga course after the rain delay to win by 2 3/4 lengths. The 3-year-old daughter of Quality Road, ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Chad Brown for third third win on the card, covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.07.
“It was a wild hour or so there with the delay, but thankfully it worked out for us,” Brown said. “I was actually expecting to be more forwardly placed. I told Jose [Ortiz] 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.”
Though Dunbar Road broke sharply and could have taken the lead, Ortiz was able to ease her back to nearly the rear of the tightly-compacted group of eight sophomore fillies heading into the clubhouse turn. She saved all the ground there and stayed at the rail down the backstretch, never more than six lengths off the alternating leaders.
Champagne Anyone and Ulele traded punches throughout the early stages, setting fractions of :24.14 and :48.97 over the rain-soaked course. Point of Honor, the second choice at 2-1, was just to the outside of Dunbar Road near the rear of the pack, but began to pick off rivals while three wide heading into the turn.
Ortiz chose to follow Point of Honor with Dunbar Road, angling off the fence and winding up widest of all for the swing into the stretch. Meanwhile, Street Band split rivals near the inside and briefly had the lead at the head of the lane, but Dunbar Road quickly overpowered all her rivals and pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Point of Honor battled hard to nose out Street Band for the place, while Off Topic filled out the superfecta.
“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,” relayed Ortiz. “At the five-eighths pole, I started working my way out and followed Javier [Castellano] 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've won the Alabama now three times in a row. My goal is to go to the Hall of Fame and to go to the Hall of Fame, I have to win these types of races. I think I joined Jerry Bailey and one other rider [Mike Smith] as the only riders to win the Alabama three times in a row.”
Bred in Kentucky by Jeffery Drown, Dunbar Road is out of the placed Bernardini mare Gift List, a daughter of the stakes-winning Unbridled mare Private Gift. Brant purchased the filly for $350,000 at the Keeneland September sale, and she has now won all but one of her five starts to earn more than $600,000. The Alabama is her first Grade 1 win.
“For me, loving fillies like that, it's a great, great honor to win this race,” owner Peter Brant said. “It is one of the oldest races, and since I was a little kid I was wanting to win this. I was very lucky in the 1980's to win it with Spit Curl .”
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