You can get from Northlands Park to Saratoga, but it takes awhile. Donver Stable sent trainer Josie Carroll a cheap bay filly namedJustjoriser back in 1999. The daughter of Cherokee Colony won once (at the Edmonton, Alberta track) innine starts that year and went 1-for-7 the next season. Ten yearslater, Donver and Carroll cheered Careless Jewel home in Saturday’sAlabama – the $600,000, Grade I Alabama.
“Holy moly,” Carroll said in her best hockey accent while exiting the winner’s circle.
“Josie, we won the Bama! Woo-hoo!” owner Vern Dubinsky shouted before bear-hugging his trainer.
Yes they did.
Careless Jewel tossed jockey Robert Landry to the ground twice before the race and then disposed of seven rivals just as easily – roaring home by 11 lengths in 2:03.24 for the 1 1/4 miles. Going into the first turn, the gray daughter of Tapit steadied and crossed Be Fair’s heels as the pacesetter angled to the rail. Then, Careless Jewel set up shop outside and second down the backside. She took over on the far turn. Three lengths clear after a mile, she led by 7 at the top of the stretch and won by herself as the 5-2 second choice. Fellow Canadian shipper and slight favorite Milwaukee Appeal (John Velazquez) finished second with Casanova Move (Jose Lezcano) third.
Bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds and Bill Andrade, Careless Jewel won her fourth consecutive race after finishing third in her career debut at Keeneland in April and made people think of another 3-year-old filly who skipped the Alabama.
“We were coming anyway, and I would hope we’d have made her run,” said Carroll of Rachel Alexandra. “You don’t know what you have until you run in these races so we were going to run.”
Landry, who won his first Grade I in the United States, would have taken his chances.
“The way she ran today it would have been interesting to see her in there with Rachel,” said the 46-year-old jockey. “Rachel’s been impressive, don’t get me wrong. This filly is getting better . . .”
The Alabama drew a field of eight, all with credentials. Some liked the distance. Some liked the track. Some exited a wild finish in Belmont Park’s Coaching Club, at the same distance, in late July.
Only one mattered, however.
Careless Jewel shipped seven hours from Woodbine Thursday and took a stall in Angel Penna’s barn on the Saratoga backside. The gray filly stared out the back window Friday morning after getting an electrolyte jug, and quietly put on her game face.
By Saturday afternoon, she was ready. She dropped Landry between the paddock and the track, again while warming up and then acted up in the gate. She broke second behind Be Fair and sped into the turn where Be Fair completed her angle to the rail, forcing Landry to shift to the outside and causing a bit of a chain reaction with Funny Moon and Don’t Forget Gil.
“Into the first turn, Julien (Leparoux, aboard Be Fair) wanted to squeeze me out of there, I had to take her up and jump his heels,” said Landry. “I almost went down.”
The split-second of danger may have helped win the race.
“Getting her off the rail was smart, and he did a great job,” Carroll said. “A lot of times times when that happens they get too on the bridle and they get too aggressive. He didn’t panic, he didn’t grab her, he just sat still.”
Looking relaxed on Landry’s long hold, Careless Jewel lobbed along just off Be Fair through a half-mile in 47.35 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:12.14. Motionless, Landry let out a little more rein at the start of the turn and his filly lengthened her stride.
Carroll won her first race at Saratoga and squared her record in the Alabama to 1-1. Her only other start at the track came in the 1999 race with Brushed Halory, who finished last behind Silverbulletday after bleeding.
“I thought I had a shot in 1999 too,” Carroll said. “She was a very nice filly.”
Carroll didn’t return to Saratoga until now – partly because she didn’t have a horse this good and partly because the purses at Woodbine Race Course in Toronto are so good.
“I don’t think you come to Saratoga unless you think you have a real horse to bring,” she said. “This is the place you want to be, but you want to be here with a horse that’s live, that’s good enough. It’s pretty exciting to bring her and have her prove us right.”
Donver (Donna and Vern Dubinsky of Alberta) bought Careless Jewel at Keeneland September in 2007 on the advice of agent Ciaran Dunne.
“She was in the back walking ring and we didn’t have a client for her,” said Dunne. “Vern was at home in Edmonton, I called him up and said, ‘Hey, there’s a filly in the ring, do you want to buy her?’ He said yeah. It was that simple. She was always exceptional.”
She impressed at 2, but chipped a knee in August and didn’t start until this spring when she finished third as the favorite in a 6-furlong maiden April 5. She won her next start at Woodbine a month later and sped through the allowance ranks with another Woodbine score June 21. Careless Jewel carried a 2-for-3 mark on synthetic surfaces to the July 18 Delaware Oaks, 1 1/16 miles on traditional dirt, and she flashed speed through an easy victory in the Grade II.
The Saratoga talk started shortly after the 522-mile ride home to Canada. Careless Jewel rattled off three solid works for Carroll and got back in the van. She packed her attitude.
“She’s a bit of a handful, she’s fine at the barn, but once she gets out to the track she gets like that,” Carroll said. “She’s the same way in the morning in her training. It’s the anticipation of getting going. She wants to do it – now. That’s a daily characteristic with her.”
Landry, aboard for her previous three races and many of her works, rolls with the filly’s behavior.
“You see horses all the time lose a race in the paddock or the post parade,” said Landry. “I know one thing, she jumps higher than she used to, I was standing on the back of the saddle there for a second. Oh you’re just thinking hold onto her, whatever you do hold onto her, I just didn’t want to leave here and think about what might have been. I wanted to know what happened.”