Davona Dale, the nation's dominant 3-year-old filly, today joined the long list of supposedly invincible thoroughbreds who have gone down to defeat at Saratoga.
The Calumet Farm star was upset by It's In The Air in the 99th running of the Alabama Stakes, ending her eight-race winning streak and continuing trainer Laz Barrera's mastery over rival John Veitch.
Veitch had been suggesting this week that Davona Dale was as good a horse as he has trained, as good even as his brilliant colt Alydar. She had swept New York's "filly triple crown" series by a total of 22 lengths, and most of the talk here this week concerned the possibility that she might challenge colts in the prestigious Travers Stakes after she chalked up the Alabama.
It's In The Air didn't get much attention even though she had been last year's 2-year-old filly champion, and was trained by the brilliant Barrera, who had directed Affirmed to his Triple Crown sweep of Alydar last year.
"She ran here impressively last week," Barrera said, "and I knew she would run well. I've always had a lot of confidence in this filly."
Because Davona Dale's reputation had scared away most challengers, only four rivals faced her in the Alabama, and only one had any early speed: It's In The Air. Jockey Jeffrey Fell used this asset to full advantage. He sent his mount to the lead, then slowed the pace, running the first quarter mile in 24 1/5 seconds and the half in a dawdling 49 seconds.
This gave Jorge Velasquez, on Davona Dale, two unenviable choices. He could let It's In The Air steal off early to a long lead, or else force his mount to alter her usual stretch-running style and make her move early.
Velasquez chose the latter option and drew within a length of the leader on the backstretch. But It's In The Air hadn't been exerted yet, and she was hugging the rail, a significant advantage on this race track today. When they entered the stretch, It's In The Air spurted to a three-length lead, and she was still so strong after the slow early fractions that she was capable of covering the last quarter mile in 24 3/5 seconds. All Davona Dale could do was close the gap to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire.
It's In The Air set a stakes record of 2:01 2/5 for the 1 1/4 miles. She returned $8.20, $2.40 and $2.10, while Davona Dale paid $2.20 and $2.10. Mairzy Doates was third and paid $2.10 to show.