I was up well before sunrise this morning and, after clearing the cobwebs and chugging a cup of coffee, I headed over to Josie Carroll's barn on the Saratoga backstretch to visit Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate winning filly Inglorious. The Donver Stables charge is Canada's hope in today's Grade 1 Alabama Stakes.
Inglorious surveys her surroundings
Although rain pummeled the surrounding districts yesterday, the racetrack was dry this morning and there's not a cloud in the sky. Carrol, and her assistant Ruth Schmidt, were in good spirits as they watched hotwalker, 'Radar', lead Inglorious along the path by the shedrow. The conditioner was happy with the weather situation and encouraged that a couple of horses (Moshe Diane in Race 4 & Rose's Turn in Race 6) managed to close yesterday on a Saratoga main track that has been speed favouring this summer.
Josie Carroll talks about her fave filly Inglorious
Q&A with assitant trainer Ruth Schmidt who gallops Inglorious in the mornings
(Apologies for my rough video cut!!)
Josie Carroll and Inglorious pose for the equine paparazzi
Despite being hundreds of miles from home, there is an air of familiarity here as Carroll shares backstretch space with Woodbine's leading trainer Mark Casse. Both Mark, and his son Norm, were on hand and busy preparing a trio of their own horses for races later this afternoon. Exclusive Love, in particular, would appear to have a good shot in Race 9, a one-mile optional claimer, on the turf.
However, the focus of attention on this morning was Inglorious or, 'Glory Glory', as she's known around the barn. A number of photographers stopped by to take pictures of the Hennessy-Noble Strike filly, as writers took turns asking Carroll questions about their chances.
Here comes the Queen!
A common theme in the analysis of this race, based on conversations I had at Saratoga yesterday and again this morning, is whether or not Inglorious will handle the Saratoga surface. Her Beyer speed figures on dirt are certainly lower than the big digits she earned recently over Woodbine's Polytrack, but one also has to consider that she is now a more seasoned horse than the one who raced at the Fair Grounds in February and March - - races in which she was very competitive.
As Inglorious strode onto the main track for a light jog this morning, she appeared very much within her comfort zone. She was inquisitive and went about her business with the level of professionalism her conditioner has spoke about again and again.
The surface question, while a valid one, on paper, will not be a reason for me to draw a line through her name when I put my handicapper's hat on later this afternoon. The filly spent her winter training on dirt at the Fair Grounds and shipped to Saratoga on Tuesday to get acclimated to the course. How she handles the Saratoga surface is as much a guessing game, for me, as how two other horses, St. John's River and Pinch Pie, will handle their first trip over the course.
Good morning!Radar and Inglorious say hello!
While other handicapers will look at surface, I am going to back Inglorious this afternoon on the basis of her freshness and solid works.
The favoured It's Tricky and Plum Pretty have trained well following the Coaching Club American Oaks, but I wonder how much that effort might have taken out of the pair given the hot weather that afternoon. Royal Delta, who was third in the CCA Oaks, might be a better play given that she was freshened prior to that event and did not endure the same stretch duel.
Deep-closer St John's River may find herself at a disadvantage on the Saratoga surface, but it is hard to discount her spectacular effort to win the Delaware Oaks with a well-measured ride from Jose Lezcano. As Lezcano has the mount on Royal Delta, St. John's River will have a sixth new jockey in Robby Albarado.
The only other entrant, Pinch Pie, appears to be a turf horse taking a shot a some G1 ink and is hard to choose on top in this very solid, albeit short, field.
My (admittedly biased) selections:
2. Royal Delta
3. It's Tricky
For more on Inglorious, and the Alabama, please see my previous posts:
"She hides her light under a bushel" - Inglorious Prepares to Shine on Saturday
Will winning tide continue for Inglorious in Alabama?
Below are a few more photos from my morning visit with Inglorious. As always, double-left click on the photo to enlarge and use your 'Back' button to return to the Photo Essay.
Ruth Schmidt gets a leg up on the Queen's Plate champ
A beautiful, and rain-free, morning at Saratoga
The Saratoga grandstand silhouetted in the early morning
And away she goes!
Inglorious strides across the main track
Inglorious cools out after her light jog