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Breeders' Cup 2017

Alpha Returns to New York for Count Fleet

Alpha breaks maiden at Saratoga (9-3-11).
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
With the $150,000 Count Fleet for 3-year-olds on tap Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, what better time than the present to start thinking about the future?

A field of seven sophomores was entered for the one-mile, 70-yard Count Fleet, the opening salvo in a trio of races leading up to the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial on April 7, New York's traditional prep for the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. On February 4, the Big A offers the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers at 1 1/16 miles, followed by the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham, also at 1 1/16 miles, on March 3.

"I think a $150,000 race puts you on the map, and this is a race that can be a stepping stone," said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, whose Alpha is the 4-5 morning-line favorite in the 37th running of the Count Fleet. "We do think about the future with Alpha, and hope he's a Derby-type horse."

A six-length winner of his debut going seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course on September 3, the son of Bernardini next finished second to Union Rags in the Grade 1 Champagne, but was never a factor when finishing 11th behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Sent to Florida following the Breeders' Cup, Alpha returned to the worktab at Palm Meadows in December, and most recently zipped four furlongs in a bullet 47.88 Monday morning over Belmont Park's training track.

"We sent him to New York last Wednesday, and he worked very well this morning," said McLaughlin of the Godolphin Stable color-bearer, who will run on Lasix for the first time Saturday. "We have several 3-year-olds we think highly of, including Alpha and Consortium and some others who haven't started yet, and we're trying to split them up. We have had great success in New York with our runners during the winter. At the Breeders' Cup, he lost it in the gate, and we're hoping he will step up off that effort. He's a nice horse."

Ramon Dominguez, who won his third consecutive NYRA riding title in 2011 and led the nation in earnings for the second straight year, has the mount on Alpha from post position 5.

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Trainer Graham Motion, who took last year's Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial with Toby's Corner and then won the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom, is represented Saturday by Stephanoatsee, who was seventh, beaten 4 ¼ lengths, by O'Prado Again in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Remsen on November 26.

"He wasn't beaten very far [in the Remsen], and the race was a big step up for him," said Motion. "He ran well, and I thought it was an oddly run race. They went slow early and he had to made to make up ground in the stretch. I thought it was not that bad of a race from him. He's a lovely horse, a great big horse, and he's still coming into his own."

The son of A.P. Indy, a half-brother to Preakness winner Shackleford owned by My Meadowview Farms, will leave from post position 4 at 6-1 with Junior Alvarado aboard.

Like Alpha, Shkspeare Shaliya had a disappointing outing in the Breeders' Cup, making a belated run to finish ninth, beaten 6 ½ lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Prior to that, the son of Shakespeare, out of the Clever Trick mare Tricky Mistress, took the Grade 3 Pilgrim on the turf at Belmont Park on October 2 on the heels of his maiden victory, also on the turf, on September 18.

"I have been wanting to try this horse on dirt," said trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal. "I'm an Aqueduct person and I am a New Yorker; on top of that, he has a good turn of foot, and has Clever Trick in his breeding, which is why I chose this spot. The distance is a little short for him, but my whole dream is to give him a shot and see what he can do on dirt."

With that in mind, Shivmangal shipped the bay colt from his barn at Belmont Park to Aqueduct on New Year's Day for a four-furlong work, accomplished in 50.70 under jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr.

"He went the first quarter in 25 and change and the second in 24 and change, which was good for me," said Shivmangal of Shkspeare Shaliya, who carries the colors of Shivmangal Racing Stable, LLC. "The jockey said he was surprised for a turf horse how well he handled the dirt. We'll see what he can do Saturday."

At 10-1 on the morning line, Shkspeare Shaliya, highweight at 122 pounds, including Validiva, will leave from post position 7.

Repole Stable's How Do I Win will be going for his third straight victory as he makes his stakes debut in the Count Fleet. A 17 ½-length maiden winner on October 19 in his fourth start, the gray son of Corinthian next won a starter handicap by three lengths at Aqueduct on November 18, both at six furlongs.

"He's done well in his races at six furlongs, but I don't think a mile [and 70 yards] will be any problem for him," said Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "He's still developing; you could see in his last race he was a little green, but he's improving mentally."

Cornelio Velasquez will ride How Do I Win, 12-1 on the morning line, from post 2.

Rounding out the field are Speightscity, who came back from an eighth-place finish in the Remsen to win an optional claimer at the Count Fleet distance on December 15; Il Villano, winner of three straight including the Lord Henribee overnight stakes at Aqueduct on November 6 and the Southampton at Parx Racing last time out, and Whistleblower, a inner-track maiden winner at third asking on December 3.

The field for the $150,000 Count Fleet:








Il Villano (KY)

J L Flores


S L Crowell



How Do I Win (KY)

C H Velasquez


T A Pletcher



Whistleblower (FL)

A Smith


K G McPeek



Stephanoatsee (KY)

J Alvarado


H G Motion



Alpha (KY)

R A Dominguez


K P McLaughlin



Speightscity (KY)

D Cohen


G C Contessa



Shkspeare Shaliyah (FL)

J Valdivia, Jr.


D Shivmangal






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Older Comments about Alpha Returns to New York for Count Fleet...

He won't win this race.
Alpha spend the month of December in Florida (Palm Meadows Training Center) but has returned to NY for the Count Fleet.
Surprised my early Derby pick is wintering in NY.
This should be an interesting race with Il Villano, Stephanoatsee, Alpha, and Speightscity all running. Hopefully Alpha will rebound well from his BC effort.

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