In its 100 runnings, the famous Alabama Stakes usually has been won by fillies of championship caliber. Today it was won by a fluke.
Love Sign, a confirmed sprinter, led all the way to win the 1 1/4-mile classic and set a stakes record of 2:01. Her success was due not to an overnight change in her stamina or her genetic makeup, but to the aberrant condition of the Saratoga racing strip.
The inside part of the track today seemed so much harder and faster than the outside that front-runners who got to the rail were practically unbeatable. They improved miraculously over previous performances.
Even so, it seemed unlikely that Love Sign would be able to go 10 furlongs. The daughter of the sprinter Spanish Riddle never had won a race longer than seven-eighths of a mile, and had faded badly the one time she tried to negotiate a mile. And she was facing a legitimate distance runner in Calumet Farm's Sugar And Spice, the 6-to-5 favorite.
"I wanted to get the lead and set the pace," jockey Ruben Hernandez said, not that he would have had any other choice with the speedster. When Love Sign broke quickly, he immediately steered her to the rail, where he stayed all the way.
The filly covered the first six furlongs in 1:10 4-5; then Maryland-based Weber City Miss moved outside her to challenge. Love Sign lost the lead momentarily, but kept bounding along on the rail and pulled away again. As they turned into the stretch, Sugar And Spice swung to the outside and seemed poised to make a move. But on this racing surface the confirmed stretch runner could not accelerate at all.
"When the other fillies came to me," Hernandez said, "I had plenty left. I didn't ask my filly to run until we hit the eighth pole. She had plenty left. She could have run another quarter of a mile."
Love Sign scored 1 3/4 lengths over Weber City Miss, with Sugar And Spice another 4 1/4 lengths behind. Rose Of Morn was fourth. The winner paid $15.60.