02/08/2012 4:58PM

Aqueduct: Alpha likely going straight to Wood

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Tom Keyser
Alpha, with Ramon Dominguez riding, wins the Withers.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Alpha, winner of the Grade 3 Withers as well as the Count Fleet Stakes here this winter, will "most likely" skip next month's Gotham Stakes and make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial here on April 7, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Wednesday.

Alpha was scheduled to leave New York by van on Thursday morning and arrive at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida on Friday to continue training.

McLaughlin said after discussing things with Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, the decision was made to run just once more before the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

"There's more racing after May 5th," McLaughlin said by phone from Florida. "If you keep running it's hard on horses. I hope we have enough graded earnings to get in the Derby. If we act up in the gate in the Wood and finish fifth we might not get in. So be it, that's the risk we're taking."

Alpha, who finished second to Union Rags in last October's Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont, has $180,000 in graded stakes earnings.

Though Alpha has flourished while training in New York this winter, McLaughlin said by bringing the colt to Florida - where he spent about six weeks following the Breeders' Cup - he doesn't have to worry if the weather turns nasty in the Northeast.

"The weather down here and the track down here are great," McLaughlin said. "We're going to train him here and he's going to be with me - It's easier to answer to the people I'm working for if I'm looking at him every day."

While the Wood in all likelihood will be Alpha's next start, McLaughlin left the door slightly ajar to ship back for the Gotham.

"There is a plane going back to the Gotham if we change our minds," he said.
McLaughlin said, however, that he is likely to point Consortium to the Gotham. Consortium finished last in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 29. That race was run over a muddy track, and McLaughlin is hoping that Consortium simply didn't handle the surface.

"They're only 3 once," McLaughlin said. "We'll give him another try before we throw up the white flag. We can always go back to the allowance race after the Gotham."

McLaughlin said he would likely work Consortium once at Palm Meadows before shipping to New York.