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Alpha Caps Big Day for McLaughlin

Alpha wins 2012 Count Fleet Stakes.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin unleashed a pair of eye-catching 3-year-olds Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, with odds-on favorite Alpha taking the $150,000 Count Fleet by 2 ½ lengths and Captivating Lass coming on late to capture the $100,000 Busanda for fillies in a thrilling finish.

Carrying the colors of Godolphin Stable, Alpha raced in third, well off the rail, as Il Villano barreled into the lead and carried the field of seven sophomores through an opening quarter-mile in 24.48 seconds, a half in 49.06 and three-quarters in 1:13.91 over the fast inner track. Edging up three-wide on the turn, Alpha took aim on the front-runners and gained the lead with 220 yards to go, cruising under the wire in 1:42.83 for the mile and 70 yards and galloping out well.

"Turning for home, he responded every time I asked him," said winning jockey Ramon Dominguez of Alpha, who was running for the first time on Lasix. "He galloped out so strong that I had to get an outrider to pull him up. You always have to go just by what you have seen, but judging by today he should be able to handle more distance."

It was the first stakes win for the promising son of Bernardini, who had finished second to Union Rags in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park in October and then a disappointing 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. McLaughlin indicated Alpha would continue on the New York road to the Triple Crown, which culminates with the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial on April 7.

"It was a great day," said McLaughlin by telephone from Florida. "We'll probably leave him there [in New York] ... we'll probably go to the Withers [February 4] and on to the Wood with Alpha. For sure we'll have to talk to the Godolphin people, but that's what we'll look at for right now."

A six-length winner of his debut at Saratoga Race Course on September 3, Alpha doubled his career earnings to $180,000 with the Count Fleet victory and returned $3.60 as the 4-5 favorite.

Stephanoatsee, who finished seventh in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct on November 29, was second, a neck in front of Il Villano, who was followed in turn by How Do I Win, Speightscity, Whistleblower and Shkspeare Shaliyah.

In the Busanda, Captivating Lass made a steady run to defeat Sweet Seventeen, the odds-on favorite, by a neck. Content to track the clear pacesetter in second behind fractions of 24.80 and 49.69, Captivating Lass came under a drive approaching three-quarters in 1:14.36, and made up a two-length deficit in the final furlong to get up in the shade of the post.

"She seems like a grinder and it took awhile to get her going," said winning jockey Mike Luzzi. "She's a big, rangy thing, by A.P. Indy, and it took the whole stretch to get her going, but she responded and galloped out nice. I was impressed. For a second, Ramon [Dominguez, aboard favored Sweet Seventeen] snuck away a little bit. [Captivating Lass] didn't have that burst of energy and speed, but if we just kept at it I thought maybe we'd grind her down."

The Busanda was the second start in a stakes and third overall for Captivating Lass, a Darley Stable representative who broke her maiden in front-running fashion at Parx Racing on October 1 and was a troubled seventh in the Grade 2 Demoiselle on the main track at Aqueduct on November 26.

"[Captivating Lass is an] improving filly, bred very well," said Artie Magnuson, assistant to McLaughlin, of the daughter of Folk, victorious in the 2007 U.A.E. 1000 Guineas. "[It was a] much tougher race last time in the Demoiselle, but we were disappointed. We thought we'd run better. She was green, learning. She's very tall, seventeen hands."

The Busanda was Captivating Lass' first start wearing blinkers and with Lasix, and McLaughlin said the changes proved beneficial for the filly, who ran the one-mile, 70-yard race in 1:43.74.

"Everything went well for us," added McLaughlin.

Captivating Lass' connections said they will decide at a later date whether they'll keep the filly in New York or take her to Palm Meadows in Florida.

The Busanda victory, worth $60,000, lifted Captivating Lass' earnings to $101,600. She paid $5.80 to win as the 9-5 second choice.

Lady Clara was third, with Terralba, Bourbonstreetgirl, and The Winged Venus completing the order of finish.

Photo - NYRA, Adam Coglianese



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