Double Barrel

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The running joke in the courtyard of Barn 26 the last few days was that Larry Jones brought his reinforcements for the signature 3-year-old filly race of the Saratoga Race Course meeting.

The last time Jones was in town for a big race in the division he had a hammerlock on earlier this spring he brought one filly in I’m A Chatterbox. If not for an incident in deep stretch, where I’m A Chatterbox probably cost herself as much momentum as the adjudged winner Curalina with a drift and a bump, he probably would have added the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks to victories in this year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Ashland Stakes and Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Jones is back today with two fillies, I’m A Chatterbox and Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria, for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes and they’ll place plenty of familiar faces in the oldest race for females in the country.

“What a great group,” Jones said, assessing the field for the $600,000 Alabama. “They’re not making it easy on me.”

Not that anyone’s overly sympathetic to Jones’ cause or that he was overly serious. He brings a strong hand to the 1 ¼-mile Alabama, a race he won in 2008 with eventual champion Proud Spell. Lovely Maria and I’m A Chatterbox will break side-by-side in the field of seven in posts No. 3 and 4, just outside of Danette and Curalina and to the inside of Embellish The Lace, Include Betty and Sweetgrass.

They’re stabled together in Jones’ base at Delaware Park and in Barn 26 on the backstretch of Saratoga’s main track. Include Betty, who shares a common co-owner in former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones with Lovely Maria, is in the same barn, too, and when they went out to train Thursday morning the courtyard had the feel of the stakes barn at Pimlico during Preakness week.

To read the rest of the Alabama preview, download Saturday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Keeneland.