08/19/2006 12:00AM

Pine Island rallies to take Alabama

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Pine Island (right), Javier Castellano up, charges past Teammate to score a 1 1/4-length win in the Alabama.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The lessons Pine Island learned in a pair of Grade 1 losses at Belmont Park paid off big Saturday at Saratoga.

Launching a bid leaving the half-mile pole, Pine Island split horses around the turn, then ran down a game Teammate in deep stretch to win the Grade 1, $600,000 by 1 1/4 lengths. It was 8 1/2 lengths back to Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever in third.

Unbridled Belle finished fourth and was followed by Adieu, Wonder Lady Anne L, Miss Shop, Ex Caelis, and Pyramid Love.

It was the first stakes victory for Pine Island, who finished second in both the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. It was the fourth victory in the Alabama for trainer Shug McGaughey, who also won this race with Classy Cathy (1986), Versailles Treaty (1991), and Heavenly Prize (1994).

A lot was expected of Pine Island from her connections and the betting public, who hammered her down to even money. She covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.87 and returned $4.30 to win.

"I think this is her best race, and I think there's still things to learn," McGaughey said. "I threw her to the wolves quick. She ran in Grade 1's in her third start, fourth start, and fifth start. She's taken it all."

Though she broke alertly, jockey Javier Castellano dragged Pine Island back to eighth position in the field of nine. Teammate set the pace while being pressed by Pyramid Love. Those two ran six furlongs in 1:11.84. As Pyramid Love began to fade, Teammate kept going and found herself alone on the lead turning for home.

Castellano kept Pine Island to the back of the pack in eighth position before beginning his bid leaving the half-mile pole. He split horses around the turn, then took her to the outside when he moved into second position. After getting Pine Island to switch leads, she found another gear and was able to run down Teammate.

"She's got a long stride," said Castellano. "You got to help her when she switches leads. That's the reason I go out wide a little bit and tried to make her switch leads. When I made her switch leads, she gave me all she had."

McGaughey said he would look to run Pine Island back in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont Park on Sept. 9, when she would get another shot at division leader Bushfire.