Alpha opened his three-year-old season with a 2 1/2-length score in the January 7 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct and will remain on the inner track for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes, which has been moved up on the calendar and extended to 1 1/16 miles this year. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt tops a field of seven Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Gulfstream Park Derby third-placer King Kid and multiple New York-bred stakes hero Swag Daddy.
A six-length debut winner at Saratoga, Alpha stumbled badly at the beginning of his second start, the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, but closed belatedly to finish a non-threatening second to Union Rags. Nothing went right for the Godolphin homebred in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, as Alpha acted up at the gate and never fired in an 11th-place effort, but the promising bay rebounded with a stellar effort in the one-mile and 70-yard Count Fleet, rallying from just off the pace to win going away.
Alpha registered a career-best 100 BRIS Speed rating last time and the son of Bernardini will keep Ramon Dominguez in the saddle.
King Kid posted a two-length debut score at Churchill Downs in late November and turned in a respectable third-place effort when making his second career outing in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day. Trained by Dale Romans, the Lemon Drop Kid colt has shipped in from South Florida for his graded bow and will pick up the services of Mike Luzzi.
Swag Daddy has captured his last two outings over the inner track, winning both the Restrainor Stakes and Damon Runyon Stakes for state-breds at two turns, and the dark bay colt hails from the barn of Richard Dutrow, who is winning at a 41 percent clip this meet (36-for-87). Junior Alvarado retains the mount.
A pair of recent allowance winners at Laurel Park, Hakama and Tiger Walk, will each make their first stakes appearance in the Withers.
How Do I Win and Speightscity, the respective fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the Count Fleet, round out the line-up.