08/16/2003 12:00AM

Island Fashion upsets Alabama

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Revenge is sweet, as trainer Barclay Tagg found out on Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course in the $750,000 Alabama Stakes before a crowd of 36,137.

Tagg, who lost the last leg of the Triple Crown with Funny Cide to the Bobby Frankel-trained Empire Maker, upset the Grade 1 Alabama with Island Fashion. Spoken Fur, trained by Frankel, finished third and missed out on a $2 million bonus that linked the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and the Alabama.

Island Fashion, who was making her first start for Tagg, was a six-length winner over Awesome Humor in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama. It was another length back to Spoken Fur, the 4-5 favorite, in third. Halory Leigh, Bird Town, and Fircroft completed the order of finish.

Island Fashion ($18.60) was ridden by John Velazquez, who rode five winners on the card to give him a total of 41 winners after the first 22 days at the meet. Velazquez's win in the Alabama equaled Manny Ycaza's record of 41 winners at a 24-day meet in 1959.

Awesome Humor set the pace through an opening quarter-mile in 23.84 seconds and a half-mile in 48.41. Island Fashion stalked the pacesetter in second position down the backstretch and seized the lead at the five-sixteenths pole. She opened up her advantage through the stretch and was never threatened.

Island Fashion covered the distance in 2:05.08 over a fast track. It was the slowest running of the Alabama since Shuvee won it in 2:06.40 in 1969.

Tagg received Island Fashion, who is owned by Jeffrey Nielsen, to train after she won the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 19. Her previous trainer, Nick Canani, dispersed his stable to take a job with owner Michael Gill.

"She was already a made horse when I got her," Tagg said after accepting the Alabama trophy from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. "I couldn't be happier."

The win came at a perfect time for Tagg, who said Saturday that "it's highly unlikely" that Funny Cide will make next Saturday's $1 million Travers, where the gelding was supposed to have his much-anticipated rematch with Empire Maker. Funny Cide came out of the Haskell with an elevated temperature and hasn't bounced back as quickly as Tagg had hoped.

Bailey, who rode Spoken Fur, said the favorite, who easily won the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, was flat.

"I was empty at the five-eighths pole," Bailey said.

Nick Zito, Bird Town's trainer, said jockey Edgar Prado told him the filly stepped on herself in the gate.

"She had no punch," Zito said. "This is her worst race. We'll figure it out."