08/21/2004 12:00AM

Jerkens makes right call

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Society Selection, under Cornelio Velasquez, rallies to win the Alabama.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Allen Jerkens hemmed and hawed this past week over running Society Selection in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga. His decision to run in the $750,000 Alabama, rather than $250,000 Ballerina on Aug. 29, paid off when Society Selection won the 1 1/4-mile for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths over Stellar Jayne.

Ashado, the 3-5 favorite in the eight-horse field, finished third over the sloppy track, a half-length behind Stellar Jayne. Yearly Report, Fleet Indian, Susan's Angel, A Lulu ofa Menifee, and Last Song completed the order of finish.

Ashado, under John Velazquez, attended the early pace, which was set by Susan's Angel and Yearly Report. Going into the far turn, Ashado gained a narrow lead, but Stellar Jayne was hot on her tail. Stellar Jayne ranged up outside of Ashado at the top of the stretch and it became a two-horse battle. With a sixteenth of a mile remaining, Society Selection, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, came with a wide move to overpower the leaders.

Velazquez said the battle with Stellar Jayne going into the turn took a little punch out of Ashado.

"[Stellar Jayne] came early at the half-mile [pole] and it was a little too much fighting. It made me move much earlier than I wanted to, so that cost us a little more," Velazquez said.

Velazquez also said Ashado didn't feel entirely comfortable over the sloppy going.

"She had a hard time the first part going into the first turn," he said. "I grabbed her and she was fine. Coming down the lane, I got after her again. I don't think she was handling it that well."

Society Selection ($13.40) covered the distance in 2:02.70.

Jerkens and owners Marjorie and Irving Cowans ultimately decided to run Society Selection in the Alabama because it would put the filly in the running for a divisional championship should she win. Society Selection had already distinguished herself as a top sprinter with her 6 1/4-length win in the Grade 1 Test here earlier in the meet. Jerkens pulled off the same double with November Snow in 1992. Society Selection is the 13th filly to win the Test and Alabama.

Society Selection, who won the Grade 1 Frizette in her second start last October, was bred by the Cowans.

- additional reporting by David Grening