03/16/2012 5:37PM

Alpha '60-40' for Wood Memorial, says McLaughlin

Barbara D. Livingston
Alpha, with Ramon Dominguez riding, wins the Withers.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is undecided on where his top 3-year-old, Alpha, will make his next start, but indicated Friday afternoon that he is now leaning slightly toward the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7. His other choice appears to be the Louisiana Derby six days earlier at Fair Grounds.

"I don't know, to be honest," McLaughlin said Friday afternoon by phone from Florida. "I'd say it's 60-40 New York."

McLaughlin said he planned to work Alpha on Saturday morning at Palm Meadows. In the coming days, he plans to talk to Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Godolphin Racing, to discuss further where to run Alpha.

"We need to make a decision," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he has lined up Javier Castellano to ride Alpha in the Wood Memorial and believes he has Ramon Dominguez should he opt for the Louisiana Derby. Dominguez rode Alpha to victory in both the Count Fleet and Withers Stakes over Aqueduct's inner track.

McLaughlin understands that he is unlikely to have either Castellano or Dominguez should Alpha run well enough in his next race to warrant a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Castellano is the regular rider of El Padrino, who is pointing to the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 31, and Dominguez is the regular rider of Hansen, last year's 2-year-old champion who is being pointed to the Wood.

"I'm not worried about somebody sticking with him, we'll get a top rider on May 5th," McLaughlin said.

After deciding to skip the Gotham at Aqueduct, McLaughlin shipped Alpha to Palm Meadows in Florida to train the horse. McLaughlin had thought about running in the Florida Derby, but has reconsidered, with that race having seemingly attracted the Fountain of Youth winner, Union Rags, and its runner-up, News Pending, and Risen Star winner El Padrino as well as highly regarded Take Charge Indy.


Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With The Wood being $1,000,000 I don't understand why they would want to run anywhere else. Alpha loves New York. Alpha will be tough in the Belmont I think.
jose mesa More than 1 year ago
I think Mclaughlin is an under rated trainer for casual fans because he is very patient with his horses,but IMO I would have run in the Florida Derby.If Alpha cant beat the colts scheduled to run in Florida under the conditions of the race how does he expect to beat them in Kentucky under more difficult conditions.I think he thinks the connections of Alpha have put in so much to the sport in North America that it is about time for a big dividend.He is hoping to get an easier tune-up at Aqueduct and then tighten the screws in the Derby.As a horseplayer I have noticed that most of the recent Derby winners have had a very tough last prep.BTW I dont think Animal Kingdom is included but he was either undefeated or on a winning streak as a 3yo going into the Derby.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AK lost the race before the Spiral, an allowance on turf at Gulfstream. His Spiral was slow as was his final 3/8 of a mile in the Spiral.
Glenn Ellis More than 1 year ago
I really like this horse and he might be in peak form May 5. The Wood will determine if he is Derby caliber but I say YES. His Daddy won the Preakness