It takes several breaths for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to rattle off all of the quirks that define his aptly named It's Tricky — from her need to have two ponies take her to and from the main track each morning, to her routine game of chase that breaks out within the confines of her stall when it comes to being caught.
"She's not nervous, she's not mean," McLaughlin explained. "She's just a little hormonal and/or difficult at times."
Considering the way It's Tricky behaves once she breaks from a starting gate, McLaughlin doesn't mind having to explain away some of the bay filly's eccentricities.
In a season that has been filled with parity to this point, Godolphin Racing's It's Tricky has a unique opportunity when she makes her expected start in Saturday's Grade I Alabama at Saratoga Race Course. Should the daughter of Mineshaft add the 11/4-mile contest to her résumé, it would make her the first horse in this country to earn three Grade I wins in 2011, along with her victories in the Acorn on June 11 and the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23.
It's Tricky has been dominant at New York tracks with her lone loss in six starts coming in Florida for the Grade II Gulfstream Oaks where she was fourth behind R Heat Lightning. In her Grade I debut, It's Tricky took down heavily favored Turbulent Descent over a muddy Belmont track to win the Acorn by 33/4 lengths.
Proving it wasn't just the rain that moved her up that day, It's Tricky came back to defeat Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty by three-quarters of a length in the 11⁄8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks.
"I do believe the Coaching Club was probably her best performance," McLaughlin said during a national teleconference this week. "Her Acorn was impressive, but we were all concerned she just loved it wet that day and would like to see her do it on a fast track. To win three Grade I's this year would be great and you would think would be deserving of an Eclipse Award, but we just take it race by race. She obviously has a lot of heart and will to win."
She has a lot of attitude as well, not that that's a bad thing according to McLaughlin. One of the few times It's Tricky didn't throw some kind of fit was in the Gulfstream Oaks when her trainer said the heat got to her and she was beaten by 221/4 lengths.
"We would be concerned if she was easy to deal with as she was in Florida," McLaughlin said. "But she's still being tricky."
The Alabama will mark the first try at 11/4 miles for It's Tricky. While McLaughlin takes the we-won't-know-until-she-does-it-approach when it comes to 10 furlongs, he points to her pedigree and the way she edged clear in the final yards of the Coaching Club American Oaks as evidence that distance shouldn't be what trips her up this weekend.
"She won two turns last time and it's only an eighth of a mile farther," he said. "I don't think the distance will hurt us. She's fit and ready to go."