There’s not a lot that the states of Montana and Alabama have in common. The Yellowhammer state is dominated by college football and racing, but with stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, and Jimmy Johnson, you won’t find many jockeys in Alabama. In fact, Alabama has been without a Thoroughbred racetrack since 1995.
In Big Sky country, horse racing was a source of pride early on in the state’s history. As the only Montana-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Spokane still holds a Derby record for winning in 2:34 ½ seconds in 1889. Of course, from 1875 to 1895, the Derby was run at a mile and a half.
It appears that the two states are on a collision course, set to collide Aug. 17, here at the Spa. After her convincing win in the Broom Dancer, Ken McPeek said Montana Native is likely on the way to the Alabama Stakes. She’s now managed to rack up two consecutive wins, both in convincing fashion.
“She’s obviously getting better as she’s getting older,” McPeek said as he stood in the early morning shadows cast by the trees surrounding the Oklahoma training track. “We did back off of her for a while before the last two. She had a break in between races and I think that’s been a big difference. We sent her back to the farm in Lexington. She was able to put on a bit of weight. She got stronger, and we’re getting rewarded for it.”
Aside from a poor performance on Keeneland’s Polytrack in mid-April, which McPeek attributes to timing, Montana Native has never finished worse than fourth and has been in the money in half of her starts. The daughter of Yes It’s True has settled into a solid two-turn dirt filly.
She’s raced across three surfaces, through the slop and on the grass, and over six different distances, from a 5 ½-furlong sprint to her latest win going 1 1/8 miles. The ten furlongs of the Alabama will push Montana Native further than she’s ever gone.
“I’ll try them short, long, on the Poly, on the grass,” McPeek said. “There’s no question she’s better on the dirt, although I wouldn’t rule out trying her again on the Polytrack if the timing and the company were right. The Alabama is definitely a consideration, she’ll run in it, I’m almost sure of it.”
With the likes of Princess of Sylmar, Unlimited Budget, Dreaming of Julia and Fiftyshadesofhay all possible for the Alabama, Montana Native would certainly have her work cut out for her. McPeek’s pleased with her progress and how she’s bounced out of the Broom Dance.
“As you can see, she’s bright-eyed and happy about herself,” McPeek said. “She’s easy at this stage. It’s more just making sure she stays in the feed tub and give her a nice little maintenance work before she runs. She’s ready, set, go.”