Photo: Courtesy of the NYRA
Eskimo Kisses made the most of a rapid early pace in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes, rallying from a distant trailing position to win Saratoga’s meet feature for 3-year-old fillies with ease.
It was just how trainer Kenny McPeek drew it up.
As Talk Veuve to Me cut early fractions of 22.52, 46.79, Eskimo Kisses was off the screen. But by the far turn, she began to factor under jockey Jose Ortiz, with the duo gobbling up ground along the rail.
“I just followed the instructions by Kenny,” Ortiz said. “He told me to set her back and let her take you there.”
“He nailed it,” McPeek added. “…You’ve got to save her run for what I call the slingshot run. Take as long as you can. When you see the whites of their eyes, cut her lose.”
A chestnut daughter of To Honor and Serve, Eskimo Kisses stopped the clock in 2:03.22 for 1 1/4 miles while wheeling back from a fourth-place effort in the July 22 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1).
Last out Iowa Oaks winner She’s a Julie ran second with 6/5 favorite Midnight Bisou third.
Of course, the Alabama runs at a rare 10-furlong distance for fillies and mares. McPeek felt as if he’d set up Eskimo Kisses for the victory, with runner-ups going shorter in both the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Ashland (G1) before running fourth in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I galloped her on Thursday morning, and she was strong,” said Ortiz, who only gave up inside positioning to move by Talk Veuve to Me at the top of the stretch. “She was very strong, and I knew she was good for the race.”
The 9-1 shot Eskimo Kisses returned $20 to win in what was her second race off a layoff following the first Friday in May.
“Anybody who saw any of her earlier races — the ones she lost, she ran real wide. Her better ones, she went inside,” McPeek said. “I said (to Ortiz), gamble. It’s a big race, and I think we’ve got that kind of distance.
“As easy as she won, he could have gone eight wide. Who knows?”
For owners Gainesway Stable, Harold Lerner, Andrew Rosen, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Racing, stable name of Sherri McPeek, Eskimo Kisses improved her record to 3-4-0 in 10 starts.