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JCGC Next Logical Spot for Alpha

Alpha Woodward 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Sitting in the Greentree office beneath a giant photo of Bernardini's victory in the 2006 Travers, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin pulled out his smart phone and showed around a photo of himself posing with a white-bearded gentleman that was taken a few moments before Alpha upset Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward.


The Twitter caption for the photo appropriately read: "Christmas in August at Saratoga."


"It was fun," said McLaughlin of Alpha's victory, which marked the first in a graded stakes for the trainer this year. "Everything went right for us. It was a big win for the horse, and a big win for everybody. It's been a long time between Grade 1s; it just shows you how hard they are, how hard any graded stakes are, to win."


Alpha, who was one of four Grade 1 winners last year at Saratoga Race Course for McLaughlin, had not won since dead-heating with Golden Ticket in the 2012 Travers. The Bernardini colt closed out his 3-year-old campaign finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and 12th in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic. He finished off the board in two starts during the winter in Dubai and came off a four-month layoff to run fourth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap in July at Belmont Park. Immediately prior to the Woodward, he was sixth in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap.


"It was a great win for him because he kind of went off the track a little bit going to Parx and Santa Anita and then Dubai," said McLaughlin "But, I blame myself a little for taking the blinkers off, and maybe he wasn't quite as fit as I thought he was in his last two races. But, he loves it here. The wet track is obviously a plus, and Johnny [Velazquez] did a great job.


"The gate crew did a great job with him, too," added McLaughlin. "Alpha has always had his issues at the gate. We've schooled him and worked with him, and the gate crew knows him and they've learned him. Hats off to the gate crew."


McLaughlin said Alpha emerged from his victory in good order and said the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 28 at Belmont Park appeared to be the next logical spot.


"It's Belmont Park and 1 ¼ miles, which he likes," said McLaughlin. "But, we'll speak with [Godolphin racing manager] Simon Crisford, who in turn will speak with Sheikh Mohammed."




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