01/30/2012 4:13PM

Aqueduct: Alpha looks solid for Withers

Barbara D. Livingston
Alpha, with Ramon Dominguez up, wins the Count Fleet.

Coming off a three-win day last Saturday, the Kiaran McLaughlin stable hopes to keep the good times rolling this weekend when it sends out Count Fleet Stakes winner Alpha as the probable favorite in the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

On Monday, Alpha turned in his one and only workout between starts, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.02 over Belmont Park’s training track. It was the fastest of 14 recorded moves at the distance.

According to Art Magnuson, the New York-based assistant to McLaughlin, Alpha worked in company with Steele Road, who was credited with a half-mile time of 48.66 seconds.

“Very, very happy, in hand, just stretching his legs,” Magnuson said.

Alpha, runner-up to Union Rags in last October’s Grade 1 Champagne, overcame a stumble at the start to win the Count Fleet by 2 1/2 lengths on Jan.7. It was a nice bounce-back effort after finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Magnuson said Alpha worked only once between starts because the colt had shipped up from Florida for the Count Fleet and is a light-framed horse. Magnuson said that Alpha has had some strong morning gallops in the last month.

Alpha has also undergone some schooling at the gate, having visited twice since the Count Fleet. On both occasions, Alpha stood in the gate with other McLaughlin-trained horses on either side and he stood without incident.

Entries for the Withers – which has replaced the Whirlaway on the New York Racing Association stakes calendar – will be taken Wednesday. Among those expected to start are Swag Daddy, the multiple New York-bred stakes winner; King Kid, third in the Gulfstream Park Derby, How Do I Win and Speightscity fourth and fifth, respectively in the Count Fleet; and Maryland shippers Tiger Walk, Hakama and Phil Dancer.