Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Heavy rains turned the Saratoga Race Course sloppy and thus
the field for the Woodward (G1)
scratched down to just five. Yet still it was a field filled with millionaires
and grade one winners, but only one of them had ever won a race at the Spa. Alpha entered the race with three
career victories at Saratoga and he made the Woodward his fourth win in gate to
Alpha had not won a race
since his dead heat victory in the 2012 Travers. As it turned out, today’s win
in the Woodward was very similar to Alpha’s victory in the 2012 Jim Dandy. That
was another gate to wire win on a sloppy Saratoga track.
Up to today the best Alpha
had done in 2013 was a fourth place finish in the Suburban at Belmont. In his
last race, the Whitney, Alpha ran sixth at every call, never a factor in the
race. In the meantime, the Kiaran McLaughlin barn had become red hot.
McLaughlin looked to shake
things up with Alpha and put blinkers on the Bernardini colt for the first
time. In addition they got John Velazquez, Saratoga’s all-time leading rider, to take the mount.
At the start of the race
Alpha went right to the lead with Flat Out in second place on the rail a length or so behind. Paynter was right on the hip of Flat Out in the two-path. After a
half-mile in :48.20, Paynter had
nosed in front of Flat Out, but Alpha remained loose on the lead.
Johnny V described the
race, “We talked in the paddock before we went out there. Plan A was to lay off
of him [Paynter], but if I did break ahead of him I would let my horse go to
lead. He broke really well out of there.”
After three-quarters in
1:11.57, Paynter began to fade as it appeared that he did not like the sloppy
track. Alpha remained on the lead closest to the rail, with Flat Out left as
his only competition.
Turning for home Flat
Out’s jockey Junior Alvarado was whipping left handed forcing his horse to
steadily bear out. Eventually the rider changed hands with the stick and Flat
Out immediately began to move back towards Alpha.
Velazquez talked about the
stretch drive, “At the quarter pole he [Flat Out] got head and head with me and
he put in a really good fight.” Johnny V. picked up on Flat Out’s problems, “He
started to get away from me, but my horse put his head down and kept on
Successful Dan ended up
finishing third and Ron the Greek got fourth place. Paynter had little run and,
in the end, took fifth place.
Clearly Flat Out’s
inability to keep a straight path down the stretch cost him some ground. Alpha
ended up winning by a head and paid his supporters $17.40 at the betting