09/14/2012 4:38PM

Belmont: Pennsylvania Derby prospect Alpha looks sharp in five-furlong workout

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Barbara D. Livingston
Alpha, shown training last month at Saratoga, worked five furlongs in 59 seconds Friday in preparation for next weekend's Pennsylvania Derby.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Kiaran McLaughlin hadn’t seen Alpha in 10 days before Friday morning, the day after the trainer returned to New York from the Keeneland yearling sales. He arrived in Saratoga just in time to watch the co-Travers winner work a solid five furlongs in 59 seconds over the synthetic surface at the Godolphin training center.

“He looks great, worked super, all systems go,” McLaughlin said.

As he has been doing periodically with his horses, McLaughlin had Alpha work right-handed as opposed to left-handed. McLaughlin just likes the change of pace it affords the horses and given he has the opportunity to do it at his own private training facility, he takes advantage of it.

It was Alpha’s last work before next Saturday’s Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby in which he will face Golden Ticket, with whom he dead-heated for win in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 25. Others pointing to the 1 1/8-mile race include Casual Trick, Csaba, Handsome Mike, Macho Macho, and Stephanoatsee. Fed Biz is possible.

Since a temperature knocked Alpha out of the Belmont Stakes in early June, little has gone wrong for Alpha, who won the Jim Dandy by two lengths July 28 before coming back to gain a dead heat with Golden Ticket in the Travers.

“Everything’s gone well, no temperatures, no issues,” McLaughlin said.

The one negative McLaughlin sees regarding the Pennsylvania Derby is that as a Grade 1 winner this year, Alpha has to carry 124 pounds and both he and Golden Ticket will be spotting 10 pounds to all but Macho Macho, who is the only other graded winner being pointed to the race.

A similar scenario exists in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies in which the McLaughlin-trained Questing, winner of the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama, will have to give My Miss Aurelia, last year’s 2-year-old champion filly, seven pounds. My Miss Aurelia, a dual Grade 1 winner at 2, won her only start this year, a 6 1/2-furlong overnight stakes at Saratoga.

“It’s the way the conditions are written,” McLaughlin said. “That’s unfortunate for us.”

Others pointing to the Cotillion are Dixie Strike and Eden’s Moon.

McLaughlin said Questing would likely work Sunday at Saratoga.

Csaba breezes for Pennsylvania Derby

Phil Gleaves flew to Saratoga on Thursday night from Miami and on Friday morning he put two of his stakes horses through workouts.

Csaba, beaten a nose in the off-the-turf Hall of Fame Stakes, worked four furlongs in 49.22 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. Miami Cat, who won the Equalize Stakes, worked four furlongs in 48.60 over the Belmont turf course. He is being pointed to the Grade 1 Jamaica at Belmont on Oct. 6, with a possible start in the $200,000 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park on Sept. 22.

Gleaves had considered running Csaba in the Travers, but ultimately decided against that, opting to try the colt one more time on the turf. He finished ninth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths, in the Equalize Stakes.

“He’s just not as effective on the turf as he is on the dirt,” Gleaves said. “We left him up here and were looking for a race, and that seemed to fit the bill.”

Gleaves said Rajiv Maragh would ride Csaba in the Pennsylvania Derby.