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Alpha Wins the Woodward at his Favorite Track

Alpha Woodward 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Heavy rains turned the Saratoga Race Course sloppy and thus the field for the Woodward (G1) scratched down to just five. Yet still it was a field filled with millionaires and grade one winners, but only one of them had ever won a race at the Spa. Alpha entered the race with three career victories at Saratoga and he made the Woodward his fourth win in gate to wire fashion.
Alpha had not won a race since his dead heat victory in the 2012 Travers. As it turned out, today’s win in the Woodward was very similar to Alpha’s victory in the 2012 Jim Dandy. That was another gate to wire win on a sloppy Saratoga track.
Up to today the best Alpha had done in 2013 was a fourth place finish in the Suburban at Belmont. In his last race, the Whitney, Alpha ran sixth at every call, never a factor in the race. In the meantime, the Kiaran McLaughlin barn had become red hot.
McLaughlin looked to shake things up with Alpha and put blinkers on the Bernardini colt for the first time. In addition they got John Velazquez, Saratoga’s all-time leading rider, to take the mount.
At the start of the race Alpha went right to the lead with Flat Out in second place on the rail a length or so behind. Paynter was right on the hip of Flat Out in the two-path. After a half-mile in :48.20, Paynter had nosed in front of Flat Out, but Alpha remained loose on the lead.
Johnny V described the race, “We talked in the paddock before we went out there. Plan A was to lay off of him [Paynter], but if I did break ahead of him I would let my horse go to lead. He broke really well out of there.”
After three-quarters in 1:11.57, Paynter began to fade as it appeared that he did not like the sloppy track. Alpha remained on the lead closest to the rail, with Flat Out left as his only competition.
Turning for home Flat Out’s jockey Junior Alvarado was whipping left handed forcing his horse to steadily bear out. Eventually the rider changed hands with the stick and Flat Out immediately began to move back towards Alpha.
Velazquez talked about the stretch drive, “At the quarter pole he [Flat Out] got head and head with me and he put in a really good fight.” Johnny V. picked up on Flat Out’s problems, “He started to get away from me, but my horse put his head down and kept on fighting him.”
Successful Dan ended up finishing third and Ron the Greek got fourth place. Paynter had little run and, in the end, took fifth place.
Clearly Flat Out’s inability to keep a straight path down the stretch cost him some ground. Alpha ended up winning by a head and paid his supporters $17.40 at the betting windows.


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Older Comments about Alpha Wins the Woodward at his Favorite Track...

I agree Mike regarding the older horse division.Everything goig forward with any horse is based on Supposition.But the horse that has planted himself in the cat birds' seat is Cross Traffic.Unlike previous Pletcher older horses.This one is as fresh as can be.A win in tthe JCGC and a follow up win in the Breeders Cup should give him the title.GOD will have to prove that he can eithr win stalking or on a pressured hot pace against top of the creme horses.He has done it against inferior foes.But either way,i do agree.The 3 yr. olds have crept into the picture.i
lost my $2 win on SD but I was so happy to see Alpha win this race.
I am starting to question just how good the older horses are in the east this year. None seem able to put two good races together. I think the 3 year olds might do well in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders Cup Classic. Wise Dan and Game On Dude are big favorites now for Horse of the Year.
Hence the old standard saying "there are horses for courses."
109 BSF for Alpha in the Woodward, his career best. 109 is the highest in a graded stake at Saratoga this summer.
As much as any track, Saratoga has certain horses that love it up there ... 4-for-5 lifetime, clearly Alpha is one of those horses.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


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