04/28/2012 3:43PM

2012 Kentucky Derby: Alpha gets green light after sharp drill at Belmont

NYRA Photo
Alpha works five furlongs Saturday under Rajiv Maragh, who is likely to ride him in the Kentucky Derby.

Alpha, the Wood Memorial runner-up, passed a significant hurdle Saturday in his bid to make the Kentucky Derby by working a sharp five furlongs at Belmont Park and, more importantly, coming out of it in good shape.

In his first work since the April 7 Wood – a race from which he emerged with an infection from a wound to his left shin – Alpha breezed five furlongs in 59.54 seconds over the Belmont training track. He worked in company with the 3-year-old maiden Steele Road, starting about a length behind. The work started at the half-mile pole, and while Steele Road shut it down at the wire, Alpha went on through a final eighth of a mile of 12.39 seconds to the seven-eighths pole.

With jockey Rajiv Maragh up, Alpha went in fractions of 11.69 seconds, 23.22, and 47.15.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that he was extremely pleased with the work and that he plans to ship Alpha to Kentucky on Monday.

“We’re where we want to be, I wouldn’t change anything where we’re at today,” McLaughlin said. “To me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look better. He’s put on weight since the Wood; he’s bright, he’s happy, all systems are go.”

The infection kept Alpha off the track about two or three more days than normal after the Wood. Alpha had been on antibiotics until last Tuesday but since coming off them has had no inflammation to the aggravated area, McLaughlin said.

Alpha has trained in polo wraps and breezed wearing front bandages Saturday as a precaution.

McLaughlin said Maragh will “most likely” ride Alpha barring the availability of another rider due to a defection of one of the top Derby contenders. Last year, John Velazquez won the Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, a mount he picked up the day before the race. Maragh, third in last year’s Derby on Mucho Macho Man, will be at Churchill on Derby Day to ride Groupie Doll in the Humana Distaff.