Alpha signaled his readiness for the
second half of the season Saturday at Saratoga Race Course as he returned from
a 12-week layoff to post a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim
Dandy, the traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 25.
Unraced since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, Alpha
popped out of the starting gate on top and was tracked by Neck ‘n Neck
and Teeth of the Dog through fractions of 24.40, 49.30 and 1:14.03 over a
sloppy, sealed main track. Challenged by his pursuers on the far turn, Alpha
was asked for run by jockey Ramon Dominguez at the quarter-pole, and responded
by spurting clear at the top of the lane and went on to cross the wire two
lengths in front of Neck ‘n Neck.
“He was superb all the way around there,” said Dominguez.
“Turning for home when I shook him up, he just took off for me.
It’s an indication he’ll handle farther, and I love the way he was
handling himself prior to and after the race.”
Alpha, who carries the colors of Godolphin Racing, covered the 1 1/8
miles in 1:50.47.
The victory was Alpha’s first since he opened his 3-year-old
campaign with triumphs in the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct
Racetrack. Beaten a neck by Gemologist in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino New
York City Wood Memorial prior to the Derby, Alpha skipped the Preakness and was
being pointed to the June 9 Belmont Stakes, only to be declared from the race
after spiking a fever.
“We had a little hiccup before the Belmont, spiked a temperature, and we agreed
to stop,” said Godolphin representative Jimmy Bell. “We talked to
[racing manager] Simon Crisford and he said, ‘You know what, don’t
be pushing this. Give him the time off. Go to Saratoga and let’s see if we can do
something in the Jim Dandy that will give us a reason to look forward to the
Travers.’ We followed instructions well, and so did the horse.”
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite over seven other 3-year-olds, Alpha
returned $5.60 for a $2 win bet and extended his record to 4-2-0 from eight starts.
Aside from the Derby,
his only other off-the-board performance came when he was 11th in
the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Alpha, who has earned $860,000, will now head into the 1 ¼-mile Travers
as one of the favorites. Since the Jim Dandy was first run in 1960, nine horses
have completed the Jim Dandy-Travers double, including Alpha’s sire,
Bernardini, who won both races in 2006. Stay Thirsty, another son of
Bernardini, completed the double last year.
“This was the plan all the time, to run in this and back in the
Travers,” said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “Hopefully,
everything goes well for the next four weeks.”
Joining him in the “Mid-Summer Derby” likely will be
runner-up Neck ‘n Neck and Liaison, who closed from seventh to finish
another two lengths back in third. Following him under the wire were Teeth of
the Dog, My Adonis, Atigun, Fast Falcon, and Prospective.