Ten Things You Should Know: Alabama Stakes
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Originally published on August 18, 2011

Proud Spell and Music Note battle to the wire in the 2008 Alabama Stakes.
Proud Spell (inside) beats Music Note on the wire in the 2008 Alabama Stakes (Adam Coglianese/NYRA photo)

1) The Alabama is a race run at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. It is restricted to 3-year-old fillies.

2) The Alabama, run for the first time in 1872, is the longest running stakes race for 3-year-old fillies in the United States. It has been run continuously since 1913. It was not run from 1893-1896 and 1898-1900 when the crooked bookmaker Gottfried Walbaum owned Saratoga. It also did not run in 1911 and 1912 when all of New York racing was closed due to a gambling ban.

3) The race is named in honor of Confederate Captain William Cottrill who was heavily involved with thoroughbred racing and breeding before and after his service in the Civil War. When approached by the Saratoga Association in 1872 about having a race named in his honor, he declined and requested the race instead be named for his home state of Alabama.

4) The race has been run at its current distance of 1 ¼ miles since 1917. It had been run at three other distances prior to 1917 with one edition on the turf at 1 1/16 miles in 1903.

5) Much as the Kentucky Oaks stands as the female version of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Alabama is the female edition of the Travers Stakes, which is open to all 3-year-olds, at Saratoga. In recent years, the Alabama has been run the week prior to the Travers.

6) Since 1971, fifteen winners of the Alabama were voted Eclipse champions in the 3-year-old filly division. The last 3-year-old female Eclipse champion to win the Alabama was Questing in 2012.

7) In 1884, Miss Woodford, perhaps the greatest female thoroughbred ever, won the Alabama. She was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967 for her 37 wins from 48 career starts. Since 1952, Miss Woodford has had a stakes race run in her honor at Monmouth Park.

8) Go for Wand holds the stakes record time of 2:00.08 set in the 1990 Alabama. She is the only filly since 1917 — the first year the race was run at 1 ¼ miles — to stop the clock in less than 2:01. Only three other fillies since 1990 has finished the race in less then 2:02 (Jostle, 2:01.88 in 2001, Questing, 2:01.29 in 2012 and Embellish the Lace, 2:01.97 in 2015)

9) From 1993 to 2000, jockeys Jerry Bailey and Mike Smith won seven of eight editions of the race. Jerry Bailey is tied with Jorge Velasquez for the most wins in the Alabama with five.

10) Trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons won a record eight editions of the Alabama from 1924 to 1959. Five of those wins came for the Woodward family’s Belair Stud, the primary client during his long training career. He won the race for owner Ogden Phipps with Busanda in 1950. Busanda was a daughter of War Admiral who went on to foal the 1966 Horse of the Year and future Hall of Famer Buckpasser.

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One comment

  • Love a historian, race fan, and gambler! (and a free taking ladies man) I’m a dude from Alabama who loves the Alabama Stakes! I made a youtube video about Mr. William Cottrill. You guys up there might get a kick out of it. Just go to youtube and put in my name and it should come up. It shows his grave down here in Mobile, Alabama.
    Hey have a great race weekend!
    Charles Cort

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