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Aug 17, 2007

Pletcher sends out favorite in Alabama Stakes


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Trainer Todd Pletcher has decided not race Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches in Saturday's $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. However, he still has the probable favorite for the 1 1/4 mile race.

Octave, winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks, tops a field of seven three-year-old fillies. She is joined by Panty Raid from Pletcher's stable.

Pletcher's big filly, Rags to Riches, is being kept out of the Alabama after missing some training earlier this summer. Pletcher will run Rags to Riches in the Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park.

"We missed too much time," Pletcher said on Sunday. "It’s August 12 and she's not ready to run on August 18. I didn't want to push the issue. I'm disappointed that she won't get to run here, and I'm sure there are people who would have loved to see her run. Timing wise, it's not going to happen. Right now, we're primarily focused on what is best for the filly. By the time September 8 rolls around, she should be pretty sharp. We'll use the Gazelle as a backup plan if we need the extra week or the track is not to our satisfaction."

Octave, with rider John Velazquez, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite while Panty Raid is 4-1 in the program. Owned by Starlight Stable and Donald Lucarelli, Octave will start from post four and Panty Raid will break from post two with Edgar Prado in the saddle.

"Winning a big race like this is as equivalent to the Travers for fillies," said Lucarelli. "We had always wanted run [Octave] in the Alabama. Between the four weeks [since the Coaching Club American Oaks], being she has won here before, and she has been training well, we're going to take a shot."

Octave has earned more than $1.2 million in her career with four wins in 10 starts. Along with the Coaching Club American Oaks, she won the Mother Goose Stakes and was second to Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks this year.

Panty Raid is coming off a win on the turf in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park and also took the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes in May. She is owned by Glencrest Farm.

"She's a master of winning all of those races," Pletcher said. "It would be hard to criticize her record. I think she’s better on the dirt; Edgar thinks she's better on the turf. If you had seen her work, you would likely agree with me."

The 3-1 second choice is Lady Joanne, runner-up to Octave in the Mother Goose. Lady Joanne will start from the far outside post with Calvin Borel riding.

The filly, trained by Carl Nafzger, won the Banshee Breeze Stakes here for owner Bentley Smith. She has won five of eight lifetime starts for $411,834. Earlier this year Lady Joanne won the Dogwood Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

"This is her big, ultimate test," Nafzger said. "I think she can get the mile and a quarter. That's not the problem. It’s the other horses. That's the bigger problem. I like these races. It's fun. I want to win, but as a trainer, I just enjoy a lot of good horses."

Here the complete field for the Alabama in post position order: Moon Catcher 6-1, Panty Raid 4-1, Tough Tiz's Sis 5-1, Octave 5-2, Folk 8-1, Lear's Princess 10-1 and Lady Joanne 3-1.

The Alabama has a scheduled post-time of 5:20 p.m. (et).

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