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Wood Memorial once again likely for Alpha
With juvenile champion and Grade 3 Gotham winner Hansen now probable to make his next start in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14, Grade 3 Withers victor Alpha is once again likely to compete in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Godolphin Racing have been mulling multiple options for Alpha, among them the Wood Memorial, the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on April 1. On Tuesday, McLaughlin said the Bernardini colt was probable for the Louisiana Derby but on Thursday announced Alpha is expected to make his next start at Aqueduct.
"Alpha is now heading to the Wood," McLaughlin said. "I spoke to (Godolphin racing manager) Simon Crisford yesterday, and we agreed (the Wood would be) the race (for Alpha) if the rumors were true that Hansen wasn't going to the race. We'll get Ramon Dominguez back, and we'll be back in New York.
"It's a prestigious race, and we'll be happy to be back in New York. We are supporters of New York racing, and if Alpha goes to the Wood he'll be staying in our barn with our people. It's why we prefer Florida or New York."
The 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial will be the third start at Aqueduct for Alpha, who won the Count Fleet in January prior to his score in the Withers in February.
After winning the Gotham, Hansen was originally slated to return for the Wood Memorial before Dr. Kendall Hansen, who owns the colt in partnership with Dr. Harvey Diamond, announced that the champion is now probable for the Blue Grass.
"More of my family and friends will get to go (to the Blue Grass)," said Dr. Hansen, who lives in Kentucky. "We were happy with our trip to New York for the Gotham and had a great time and made some great memories."
Dr. Hansen added that while his Tapit colt is probable for the Blue Grass, he was leaving the door ajar for the colt to compete in the Wood Memorial.
"There's a chance (he'll run in the Wood Memorial) as everything is day-to-day," Dr. Hansen added. "Never say never. We're keeping our options open, and nothing is signed in ink. I knew this might cause a chain reaction with where the other horses might go, so I'm glad this is out there."
Ramon Dominguez, the two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner for outstanding jockey, is the regular rider for Alpha and Hansen. Both McLaughlin and Dr. Hansen said Dominguez will respectively ride Alpha and Hansen in the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass.
Should Hansen be re-routed to the Wood Memorial, Alpha will then be pointed for the Louisiana Derby, McLaughlin said.
In addition to Alpha, the Wood Memorial is expected to attract Casual Trick, Gemologist, My Adonis, Prospective, Street Life, The Lumber Guy and Tiger Walk, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.