08/19/2017 7:28PM

Elate cruises to 5 1/2-length victory in Alabama

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Barbara D. Livingston
Elate wins the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga 8.19.17

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – No photo was needed. Nor was a plea to the stewards for help. On this day – the most important day on the calendar in Saratoga for 3-year-old fillies – Elate was clearly best in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes.

Under Jose Ortiz, Elate took over from the pace-setting It Tiz Well at the top of the stretch and gradually drew clear from her eight rivals down the lane to win the 137th Alabama by 5 1/2 lengths. It Tiz Well held second by a head over Salty, who was 3 1/4 lengths clear of Actress.

New Money Honey finished fifth and was followed by Lockdown, Mopotism, and Holy Helena – favored by $112 over Elate. Unchained Melody, the third choice at 9-2, was eased by jockey Joel Rosario. Unchained Melody was vanned off but appeared to be sound, according to trainer Brian Lynch in a text.

For Elate, the victory was her first in a graded stakes and came four weeks after she was beaten a head by Abel Tasman – the top 3-year-old filly in the country – in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. In that race, Abel Tasman and jockey Mike Smith put Elate and Jose Ortiz in tight quarters in deep stretch, prompting Ortiz to lodge an objection that the stewards disallowed.

“I feel like we could have won both but we get away with one and we’re very happy,” Ortiz said.

Elate’s performance in the Coaching Club continued a progression her Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, said he began to notice midway through the spring. Though Elate won her debut at 2 by 12 1/2 lengths last fall at Aqueduct, Mott said when he got Elate down to Florida for the winter she was slow to come around.

“It was like she hadn’t come alive yet. She was doing fine, but her works were good without being spectacular,” Mott said. “You could tell she was a filly that was probably going through a little bit of a growing stage, a little bit of a development stage. We said then she probably wouldn’t be on her game for the Kentucky Oaks and she was more of an Alabama filly, and that’s exactly how it worked out.”

As far as Ortiz was concerned, the trip he worked out in the Alabama was perfect. Elate broke well and was four wide entering the first turn, in fifth position, but less than three lengths off the lead, established by It Tiz Well.

It Tiz Well, under Drayden Van Dyke, maintained her 1 1/2-length advantage through a half-mile in 46.96 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.92.

Elate was in fourth, three wide down the backside, and she moved within a half-length of It Tiz Well approaching the quarter pole. Turning for home, Elate went by It Tiz Well and was never seriously challenged in the stretch.

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Elate, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, covered the 1 1/4-miles in 2:02.19 and returned $10.60 as the second choice.

“When I passed the three-eighths pole, I felt like I had a lot of horse underneath of me but still had [It Tiz Well] in front of me,” Ortiz said. “I just went with it. When we entered the stretch, I made her switch leads and little by little got her going, and when she got going she got going really well. I didn’t look back, I just kept riding. It’s a Grade 1, the Alabama, I don’t want to look for nobody.”

For Mott, it was his third victory in the Alabama, having won the race previously with Royal Delta (2011) and Sweet Symphony (2005).

“I just wanted the win for the filly, the win for the connections,” Mott said. “Ms. Dilschneider is such a wonderful lady, she’s one of the great women of the turf. You couldn’t ask for a better owner.”