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Alpha expected to arrive at Churchill beginning of Derby week
It's been a somewhat eventful road to the Kentucky Derby for Grade 3 Withers Stakes hero Alpha.
First there was the matter of his final prep race -- before deciding on the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, in which he ran second, Alpha's connections seriously considered both the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
Alpha exited a gallant neck loss to undefeated Gemologist in the Wood with a laceration on his left foreleg incurred when he was forced to steady in the first turn. Originally scheduled to leave for Kentucky on April 16 by van, Alpha was sidelined for several days after the cuts became infected and his departure was delayed as a result.
Now, Godolphin Racing plans to fly Alpha to Louisville, Kentucky, on April 30, with his final serious work for the Derby expected to come at Belmont Park.
"He's doing really well," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Friday. "We're not out of the woods yet, but we're doing well. Most likely we're working him just once, here. We have him on the flight on the 30th, so we would probably work the 28th."
McLaughlin did not rule out an earlier work for the son of Bernardini, who won both the Count Fleet and Withers at Aqueduct this winter en route to the Wood.
"There's also a chance we could work in the next two days, it's just a gut feeling, and we'll see about the weather," McLaughlin added.
Alpha's jockey for the Kentucky Derby is also a question mark. Ramon Dominguez, the regular rider of 2011 two-year-old champion Hansen, has been aboard Alpha for all three of the colt's starts this year. With both horses headed to the Derby, Alpha might need a new pilot on May 5.
"Obviously we're waiting for Ramon," McLaughlin said. "But I'm not putting any pressure. Each day that goes by is fine with me, no problem."
McLaughlin added that Godolphin's star four-year-old filly It's Tricky continues to do well after her win in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Distaff Handicap last weekend. The daughter of Mineshaft is expected to go from the seven-furlong Distaff to the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at 1 1/16 miles around one turn at Belmont Park on May 28. Also pointing to that race is the speedy Awesome Maria, winner of her last six starts and defending champion of the Ogden Phipps.
"It's Tricky, she's great," McLaughlin said of the dual Grade 1 winner. "I think it's good she went back to seven here and then a one-turn mile and a sixteenth at Belmont -- she'll be close to Awesome Maria."