04/16/2012 3:00PM

Aqueduct: Alpha staying home for now

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Tom Keyser
Alpha cut up a shin during the Wood Memorial, in which he ran second.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though Alpha, the Wood Memorial runner-up, did not ship to Churchill Downs as originally scheduled on Monday, his connections remain optimistic the multiple stakes winner can still make the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, said Monday that Alpha was treated last week for an infection that came as a result of his suffering a few cuts on his left shin during the early stages of the April 7 Wood Memorial. Jockey Ramon Dominguez had to check Alpha going into the first turn of the Wood. The horse recovered and ultimately ran a strong second, beaten just a neck by Gemologist.

“The first four days he was fine,” McLaughlin said by phone Monday from Lexington, Ky., where he was with family following the death of his father, Ray McLaughlin, Saturday night. “He had a day or two with infection. It’s okay now.

“He got a cut on the shin and he grabbed a quarter a little bit all into the first turn,” McLaughlin added. “It didn’t seem like a big deal, it turned out to be a bigger deal than we first thought.”

An ultrasound performed over the weekend didn’t reveal any structural problems and Alpha was scheduled to resume regular training on Tuesday at Belmont Park.

Originally, McLaughlin had planned to van Alpha to Louisville on Monday with workouts scheduled for this Saturday and April 28. Now, McLaughlin said Alpha will likely do all of his training – and perhaps work only once – at Belmont before being flown to Churchill on April 30.

Alpha had same gate issues the last time he was at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he finished 11th, and in his 3-year-old debut at Aqueduct when he won the Count Fleet. But he has been well behaved in the gate in each of his last two starts, a victory in the Grade 3 Withers and the Wood.

“I want to get home Wednesday and see him,” McLaughlin said. “Right now we plan on working him around the 28th one time, but we could still work him this weekend too. He’s fit, he doesn’t need too much.”

Alpha probably will need a new rider. His regular rider, Ramon Dominguez, is also the regular rider of Hansen, last year’s 2-year-old champion and runner-up in Saturday’s Blue Grass. Steve Rushing, agent for Dominguez, said Sunday he had not yet sat down to talk with Dominguez about a final decision regarding the Derby, something he reiterated to McLaughlin on Monday.

“We’re not in a big hurry. Who’s ever available tomorrow will most likely be available next week,” said McLaughlin, who noted he would talk with Godolphin’s racing manager, Simon Crisford, “and give him a list of names that are available if we need to.”

McLaughlin plans to return to New York Wednesday after funeral services are held for his father, Ray, who died Saturday night from complications of Parkinson’s and stroke.

“He was a great man to all of us, and he’s going to be missed,” McLaughlin said. “We’re all at peace with it.”

Tagg runners eye stakes

A number of Barclay Tagg-trained horses have recently returned from south Florida and are eyeing stakes at the upcoming Belmont Park meeting.

Jersey Town, the 2010 Cigar Mile winner, is eyeing a possible start in the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester on April 28, according to assistant trainer Robin Smullen.

Jersey Town finished second, beaten one-half length by Travelin Man, in the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream on March 31. Smullen said the Westchester or the Churchill Downs Sprint on Derby Day are the possible spots, though the Sprint is not ideal in terms of timing for the Metropolitan Handicap on May 28.

Beau Choix, fourth in the Grade 3 Appleton, is likely to run in the Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy on May 5.

Fastest Magician, second in a third-level allowance race on March 4 at Gulfsream, is targeting an overnight turf sprint stakes on May 13.

Kindergarden Kid, eased in an optional claimer on March 18, is being pointed to an overnight turf stakes at 1 1/4 miles on May 3.

On Monday, Kindergarden Kid worked five furlongs in 59.89 seconds over the Belmont Park main track, getting his final quarter in 24.66 seconds.

Smullen said jockey Edgar Prado said he heard Kindergarden Kid make “a terrible noise” in his last race, which was run under very hot conditions.

Smullen noted that Kindergarden Kid also ran poorly in the 2010 Virginia Derby when conditions were very hot.