Kentucky Derby 2020 Radar: Pletcher's Alpha Sixty Six scores

September 08, 2019 09:20am

A son of hot first crop sire Liam's Map and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, Alpha Sixty Six proved on debut that he’s more than just a pretty pedigree.


Running for the top connections of owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Todd Pletcher, the colt worked a wide trip Saturday at Belmont Park, eventually grinding out a neck victory over hard-luck loser Hemlock at the 6 1/2-furlong distance.


If you’re into gallop outs — and we’ll take any bit of video on these young horses we can get — Alpha Sixty Six kept right on going after the wire once clocking a final time of 1:16.60.


This looks like a 2020 Kentucky Derby Radar runner, with the Horse Racing Nation feature aiming to point out the type of 2-year-olds you can expect to see heading into prep season.

"That was a nice victory from him," said Byron Hughes, assistant to Pletcher. "He was a little wide on the turn, but he kicked home and out-dueled his opponents, so it was very impressive. He's also come out of the race in good shape."


Connections went to $400,000 to purchase Alpha Sixty Six as a yearling, and he had worked with Pletcher’s first string at Saratoga leading into a first start at Belmont. An Aug. 11 breeze video courtesy of XBTV.com shows Alpha Sixty Six blowing by stablemate Freewheeler, a 5 1/4-length Saratoga debut winner on the turf, in a morning move at the Spa.


On race day under jockey John Velazquez, Alpha Sixty Six showed all the signs of a horse that had enough speed to win at this shorter distance, but should prove more formidable going longer. He was positioned wide throughout, navigating from a mid-pack position early while chasing fractions of 23.01 and 46.43.


They were four-wide off the turn — Alpha Sixty Six on the outside — and as two contenders dropped out, this race became a matchup of Hemlock and the winner, who nudged by late, then galloped out well in front.


The Godolphin homebred Hemlock, who’s trained by Bill Mott, was making his second career after finishing fourth as an odds-on favorite July 24 in his Saratoga unveiling. Alpha Sixty Six was just above even money as the top betting choice Saturday.


This was the second Pletcher runner of the week to hit the Kentucky Derby Radar and third overall so far this season. Gouverneur Morris took to the slop looking like the real deal on closing day at Saratoga, while Glory Road won on debut earlier in the meet.


It’s looking like a bounce-back year for Pletcher in the division after his Kentucky Derby qualifying fate came down to the final preps last season. Cutting Humor won the Sunland Derby (G3) to make the gate, while Spinoff ran second in the Louisiana Derby (G2).


Pletcher’s 54 Kentucky Derby starters remain a record. He’ll aim for a third victory in the race next May 2 with previous scores by Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017).

 

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About the Derby Radar

Back for the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps down the line. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

Did we miss one? Email editor Jonathan Lintner (jlintner@horseracingnation.com) if you know of a horse that should be on the radar.


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