01/05/2012 3:36PM

Aqueduct: Count Fleet Stakes draws deeper cast

Tom Keyser
Alpha will try to rebound from an 11th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in Saturday's Count Fleet Stakes.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – New York’s road to the Triple Crown has been the one least traveled in recent years, but with more lucrative purses and an additional graded stakes opportunity, perhaps that will change in 2012.

The field assembled for Saturday’s $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct appears deeper than in years past when the race was run for $65,000. Three graduates of Breeders’ Cup races – Alpha, Speightscity, and Shkspeare Shaliyah – are in the seven-horse field set to contest a mile and 70 yards over the inner track. The Count Fleet is the first route stakes in New York for 3-year-old males in 2012 and leads to races like the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers on Feb. 4; Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham on March 3; and Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 7.

Alpha, a son of Bernardini, was a six-length debut winner at Saratoga and then finished second to Union Rags in the Grade 1 Champagne, despite a troubled trip. He acted up in the starting gate prior to the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and ran 11th in the 13-horse field.

“It wasn’t a good day for him on Breeders’ Cup Day,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable. “He was terrible in the starting gate. I don’t think he liked the track that much either, but he’s trained very well since the Breeders’ Cup, he’s behaved great in the gate; hopefully that’s not an issue anymore. We have Ramon [Dominguez], which is great. He’s doing well, and we feel like he has a good chance.”

Alpha will race on Lasix for the first time in the Count Fleet.

Shkspeare Shaliyah, a son of Shakespeare, won the Grade 3 Pilgrim over soft turf at Belmont in October. He finished ninth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal shipped Shkspeare Shaliyah to Aqueduct to get a work over the inner track under Jose Valdivia. He breezed a half-mile in 50.70 seconds.

“He handled the dirt pretty good,” Shivmangal said. “The race looks like all speed, and he’s got the outside post, which I like. It’s a test for him, but I’m not really scared of these horses.”

Speightscity, who won a nine-furlong maiden race at Saratoga against a suspect group, finished ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and eighth in the Grade 2 Remsen before getting a confidence-boosting allowance win over the inner track Dec. 15.

“I don’t know what Speightscity is,” trainer Gary Contessa said. “He doesn’t get beat really far – he’s run with the best horses – but he’s also young and inexperienced. Even last time out, if you watch his race, he’s very green, bearing out, lugging in, doing this, doing that. He hasn’t gotten it together mentally, but he’s okay.”

Stephanoatsee, a half-brother to 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, tries to bounce back off a seventh-place finish in the Remsen. Trainer Graham Motion said he wasn’t totally disappointed by the race.

“He was only beaten four lengths, they went very slow early, and he was all the way out the back,” Motion said. “I envision a little different trip this time.”

Il Villano, a son of Pollard’s Vision who has won three straight races; How Do I Win, a son of Corinthian who has won two straight for Todd Pletcher/Mike Repole; and Whistleblower, a son of Grand Slam who won a maiden sprint when Lasix was added for the first time; all try two turns for the first time.

Count Fleet S., Post Time: 3:37 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 1 mile 70 yards





ML Odds


Il Villano

S. Crowell

J. Flores



How Do I Win

T. Pletcher

C. Velasquez




K. McPeek

A. Smith




H. Motion

J. Alvarado




K. McLaughlin

R. Dominguez




G. Contessa

D. Cohen



Shkspeare Shaliyah

D. Shivmangal

J. Valdivia