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Alpha to Try Turf in Mac Diarmida

Alpha Woodward 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

A multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt, Alpha will try a new surface when he opens his 5-year-old campaign next month at Gulfstream Park.            

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is pointing the son of Bernardini to the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) for 4-year-olds and up going 11 furlongs on the grass on Feb. 15.            

Owned by Godolpin Stable, Alpha began his 2013 season in Dubai, finishing off the board in a pair of Group 2 races before returning to the U.S. His lone win last season came in the Woodward (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in August.            

“He’s out of a Nijinsky [II] mare, and she was all turf,” McLaughlin said of the reason behind the switch. Alpha’s mother, Munnaya, had one win in four career starts in England. “We’ve often thought about it, and we just didn’t because he was doing so well on the dirt.”            

Alpha has six wins and nearly $1.8 million in earnings from 19 lifetime starts, including victories in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and the Withers (G3) and Count Fleet at Aqueduct in 2012.            

Stabled with McLaughlin at the Palm Meadows training center, Alpha has never raced at Gulfstream Park.            

“At Palm Meadows, we have the option of working on the turf and he worked real well on it once, and that’s all we wanted to see,” McLaughlin said. “We’re going to give it a try.”            

Alpha breezed a half-mile in 50.84 seconds over the grass on Dec. 24, and he has been back to the dirt for his most recent moves, including a four-furlong work on Jan. 25 in 50.05.            

“The other thing is, in those types of races, usually he would be lone speed and he likes that, being comfortably on the lead, so that’s what we’re going to try,” McLaughlin said. “And if it happens to rain off he loves the slop, so there’s a lot of reasons why we’re pointing that way. It’s a good time to try the turf. If it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to the dirt.”            

McLaughlin is also eyeing other stakes at Gulfstream with fillies Wedding Toast and Penwith. A 4-year-old daughter of Street Sense, Wedding Toast has strung together four straight wins including the Comely (G3) at Aqueduct on Nov. 30, and is possible for the $100,000 Sabin (G3) for older females at 1 1/16 miles on dirt on Feb. 16.            

Third in the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct on Nov. 30, Penwith made her 3-year-old debut by winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance on dirt at Gulfstream on Jan. 2. She is expected to come back in the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) for sophomore fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 22.                              

 

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