South Florida-based Alpha, easy winner of the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on February 4, is now considered probable for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed Tuesday.
"The chances are very good that we're coming that way," McLaughlin said. "Simon Crisford (racing manager for Godolphin Racing) is the one who makes these decisions and we had talked yesterday, back and forth on e-mail, and we agreed that the Fair Grounds is a good spot. We will stay here in Florida and work this last time, make sure all is well for everybody going into the Florida Derby, and then we'll enter at the Fair Grounds, most likely."
The connections had been leaning toward Aqueduct's Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 7 and also considered Gulfstream Park's Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 but both of those races will likely be stacked with several of the moment's leading Kentucky Derby contenders.
Alpha will work at his Palm Meadows Training Center base on Saturday or Sunday and fly to New Orleans on March 28, the Wednesday prior to the race.
"A two-hour flight from West Palm to New Orleans is almost as easy as vanning from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream," McLaughlin said. "It's a million dollars, a Grade 2, and we like the timing of it, being five weeks to the (Kentucky) Derby, or one day short of five weeks."
McLaughlin added that he would have had a tougher time lining up one of his preferred riders for either of the Grade 1 races but for the Louisiana Derby he was able to secure the services of Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey.
McLaughlin last raced at Fair Grounds when Seattle Fitz finished fourth in the 2004 Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap won by Peace Rules.