This weekend's race, Saturday August 9
The Alabama Stakes at Saratoga
As much as the fans at Saratoga will lament the absence of division leader Untapable from Saturday's $600,000 Alabama Stakes, the connections of the nine starters are no doubt smiling.
Foremost among all those happy people are owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher, who will send out the filly to beat in 8-Stopchargingmaria.
The 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat is coming off a five-length win in the Coaching Club American Oaks on opening weekend at Saratoga, a victory in which she earned a spot on the Hot List with a B.
Though she's being asked to handle a mile and a quarter for the first time, Stopchargingmaria promises to be a handful for her rivals. She was a decisive winner in the Oaks off a two-month layoff and should be even sharper for Saturday's race based on a string of brisk workouts.
She also has a fondness for Saratoga, with a record of two wins and a second in three tries.
Put it all together, toss in Untapable's absence, and she's an obvious choice to nail down a third-straight win.
The Alabama also features the fillies that ran second through fourth in the CCA Oaks, but the choice for second is 6-Fortune Pearl, who captured the Delaware Oaks in her last start. Though third to Stopchargingmaria in the Black-Eyed Susan back in May, Fortune Pearl has a strong late kick and should thrive at the 10-furlong distance.
1-Unbridled Forever gets the nod for the show spot after a runner-up finish in the CCA Oaks that marked the sixth straight time she has finished third or better -- with the last four of them coming in graded stakes.
To complete the superfecta, 9-Size turned in a strong effort in her first try around two turns and if anyone can get her ready for an acid test at the Spa it would be her Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott.
Hot List Alabama Selections
Last weekend's race, Saturday August 2
The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga
The way the $1.5 million Whitney Handicap took shape, it seemed destined to put everything in place for the championship chase in the fall.
Palace Malice in front and everyone else chasing him.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way.
Palace Malice fizzled at 3-5 odds in the Whitney, joining a long list of stars who have learned the hard way why Saratoga is known as the Graveyard of Favorites. His dull sixth-place finish came with no apparent excuses, highlighting a string of performances by the top stars that were not overly impressive when reviewed by the Hot List team.
As much as Palace Malice could easily revert to top form, there's no incentive to place him on the Hot List because he'll most likely be the favorite in his next start and will offer no value.
The victorious Moreno was certainly a worthy winner, and the Hot List was delighted to have him as an "A" List choice for the Whitney. Yet he got away with moderate fractions and in his next start will no doubt have a target on his back. Figuring he'll face a tougher challenge and will be much closer next time to odds of 3-1 than the 10-1 he was dismissed at in the Whitney, there's little reason to place him on the Hot List once again.
Will Take Charge, as usual, threatened but settled for third. A champion a year ago, he's regressed this year during an already long and taxing campaign and should continue to be an overlay in subsequent starts.
A pair of horses managed to earn a spot on the Hot List, though neither played a major role in the outcome.
Romansh dropped from 24-1 to 18-1 in the final three minutes -- meeting the Hot List's late-wagering criteria -- and received a D for his seventh-place finish.
Let's hope his connections find a softer spot than a Grade 1 stakes for his next start.
Last Gunfighter, who went off at 23-1 odds, turned in an effort that was better than it may seem. He broke slowly from the outside post in a field of nine and then was carried four wide on the first turn when he needed to save some ground. Last early on, he had no shot against the slow fractions and then had to rally in the seven path turning for home. That he actually passed Palace Malice and finished fifth after all that says something about both horses, and we'll give him a B in hopes that he'll tackle lesser company next time or will sneak into the bottom part of a triple at a big price.
Hot List Horses
Last Gunfighter (B)
For daily Hot List selections, click here.
Hot List Key
A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* minus-4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.
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