08/14/2002 11:00PM

Alabama's cup runneth over

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Steve Flint looked at the entries for Saturday's $750,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, smiled, and shook his head.

The list includes five-time Grade 1 winner You, Kentucky Oaks winner Farda Amiga, Coaching Club American Oaks winner Jilbab, and Mother Goose winner Nonsuch Bay. Then there is Bella Bellucci, who might have been the Kentucky Oaks favorite had she not scratched because of a low white-blood count. Even Smok'n Frolic is a multiple graded stakes winner, although not for the last 10 months.

"This is everything it's supposed to be," said Flint, who trains Delaware Oaks winner Allamerican Bertie. "This is supposed to be the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby for fillies and it is. If Take Charge Lady would have been in here it might have been billed as the best 3-year-old filly race in the last 10 years."

Ashland winner Take Charge Lady is the only 3-year-old filly of consequence not in the Grade 1 Alabama, which will be televised on ESPN (5-6 p.m. Eastern).

The biggest question most of the fillies must answer is whether they can negotiate 10 furlongs. The biggest question mark may surround potential favorite You, who is coming off a gutsy victory in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Test on July 27.

You, who is trying to become the 13th filly to win the Test and Alabama, has not won beyond 1 1/16 miles. But, trainer Bobby Frankel said he has no other race to run in and hopes that You's class and her affinity for Saratoga - she has won two graded stakes here - will carry her the distance.

"She's already done everything we've asked of her, if she can win [the Alabama] then we know we have a legitimate chance in the [Breeders' Cup] Distaff," Frankel said. "We know she's dead fit. She loves it here, why not take a chance?"

With Jerry Bailey in Chicago, Edgar Prado picks up the mount on You, who drew post 7.

You figures to vie for favoritism with Bella Bellucci, who climbs back into Grade 1 company after romping to victory in a nine-furlong classified allowance race at Belmont on July 19. She is a sister to Kurofune, who won te 1 5/16-mile Japan Cup Dirt. Jockey Mike Smith, who is 2 for 2 aboard Bella Bellucci, thinks his filly will relish the distance.

"I think she fits right in front of them at the wire," said Smith, who has won four Alabamas. "She hasn't got the seasoning as far as some of those other mares, but I think her talent will overcome that. I saw her last race when Jerry rode her and she looked awesome. She was on the bridle toting him around there and when she's right she kind of pulls you around there. The distance really suits her too."

Farda Amiga is another who appears well bred to get the 10 furlongs. A daughter of Broad Brush, Farda Amiga rallied from off the pace to win the Kentucky Oaks on May 3. She must overcome a 106-day layoff, a cross-country flight and the Saratoga heat.

Farda Amiga arrived from California on Wednesday, and according to trainer Paulo Lobo had a healthy appetite Wednesday night and galloped well over Saratoga's main track Thursday morning.

"We decided to come here because she has been doing very well in her training, and she's very healthy," Lobo said. "But I'm very worried about the weather and three months without a race. I think she's going to love the distance."

With Chris McCarron retired, Pat Day picks up the mount.

Nonsuch Bay is 4 for 7, and trainer Frank Alexander believes his filly has legitimate excuses in her three losses. Her off-the-pace victories in the Nassau County and Mother Goose Stakes give Alexander hope she can overcome her sprint pedigree.

"I don't think the distance will be a problem if she relaxes the way she did the other day," he said.

Jilbab overcame a stumbling start to win the 12-furlong Coaching Club. Jockey Mike Luzzi said the key to that victory was the filly's ability to relax.

Allamerican Bertie is coming off a front-running victory in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, but Flint doesn't believe his filly needs the lead. From the sounds of it, Flint just thinks she needs some racing luck.

"If she doesn't win, she's just not good enough," Flint said. "I couldn't ask for a horse to train better up to a race than she has to this one. She's as good as she could possibly be."

In this field, she's going to have to be.