08/13/2007 12:00AM

Alabama not short on talent


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though the $600,000 Alabama Stakes has lost its marquee horse, the Grade 1 fixture for 3-year-old fillies is still coming up a strong race.

Even without Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years, the Alabama is expected to attract seven 3-year-old fillies who have combined to win 28 of 51 starts, including 14 stakes races. Octave and Panty Raid, both stablemates of Rags to Riches, head the field. Also expected to run are Lady Joanne, Lear's Princess, Moon Catcher, Tough Tiz's Sis, and Folk.

On Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed what he had been hinting at for weeks, that Rags to Riches would not run in the Alabama. Though Rags to Riches worked five furlongs in 1:02.11 on Sunday morning, Pletcher said she missed too much training time in late July to make the race. Instead, she will be pointed to the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 8.

"I didn't want to push the issue, so I'm going to focus on one race before the Breeders' Cup," Pletcher said. "I would say it is likely to be the Ruffian. I think by the time Sept. 8 rolls around she's going to be raring to go. But we'll use the Gazelle [on Sept. 15] as a backup, if we feel like we need the extra week or the track's not to our satisfaction."

Despite not having Rags to Riches, Pletcher will have two strong chances to win the Alabama. Octave, never worse than second in 10 career starts, is coming off wins in the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. On Sunday, she breezed five furlongs in 1:00.46 in company with the 2-year-old Why Tonto.

Panty Raid, meanwhile, has won three consecutive races, including the Black-Eyed Susan on conventional dirt and the Grade 1 American Oaks on turf. On Sunday, she breezed a strong five furlongs in 59.67 seconds over Saratoga's main track.

"I personally think she's a little better on the dirt," Pletcher said. "I think Edgar [Prado] thinks she's a little better on the turf. If he had seen her work this morning, he might agree with me."

Lear's Princess, second to Octave in the Coaching Club in what was her dirt debut, looked like she was simply galloping during a four-furlong move timed in 47.87 seconds Sunday morning.

Folk, the UAE Oaks winner and third-place finisher from the Coaching Club, went five furlongs in 1:02.16 Sunday morning, getting her last three furlongs in 35.16 seconds.

On Monday, Lady Joanne, the Mother Goose runner-up, looked exceptional during a five-furlong work in 1:00.29, getting her last quarter in 23.93 seconds. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.31 and seven-eighths in 1:27.80.

Tough Tiz's Sis, the Hollywood Oaks winner, drilled four furlongs in 47.13 seconds Monday, though she was trying to get out under exercise rider Simon Harris, who said the filly spotted the wire, a thin metal cable above the finish line.

Also working Monday was Moon Catcher, the Delaware Oaks winner, who went four furlongs in 47.84 seconds under Kent Desormeaux, who has picked up the mount for the Alabama.