10/26/2012 3:07PM

Breeders' Cup Classic: Alpha and Pool Play get final drills

Barbara D. Livingston
Alpha was clocked in 49 seconds for his half-mile workout over the synthetic Greentree surface in Saratoga on Friday.

It was several weeks ago that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin decided to ship his Breeders’ Cup horses from New York to Santa Anita the weekend before the event, and with a storm bearing down on the East Coast, he said Friday that he was glad he had planned to get out of Dodge.

“We’re lucky our flight is tomorrow,” McLaughlin said Friday, a few hours after he put his Breeders’ Cup runners, including Classic contender Alpha, through their final drills at the Greentree Training Center in Saratoga. “I’m glad it’s not Tuesday, with this storm coming.”

Alpha was one of two contenders for the Nov. 3 Classic to record workouts on Friday. The other was Pool Play, who is at Churchill Downs and was scheduled to travel to California on Sunday.

[BREEDERS' CUP WORKOUTS: Full DRF coverage, Mike Welsch video reports]

Alpha was clocked in 49 seconds for his half-mile workout over the synthetic Greentree surface.

“Everything went well,” McLaughlin said. “All my horses will walk on Sunday, then go to the track to train on Monday.”

Alpha most recently was sixth as the odds-on favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby, but he won his prior two starts, including dead-heating for the win in the Travers Stakes.

Pool Play had his final work moved up a day by trainer Mark Casse owing to an ominous Friday afternoon forecast for Louisville, Ky. He worked five furlongs in 1:02.80.

“Looking outside right now, it’s pretty dark,” Casse said late Friday morning. “We made the audible last night after looking at the forecast. I didn’t want to wait and take a shot on Saturday.”

Pool Play “worked super” with jockey Miguel Mena aboard, Casse said.

“Miguel said there’s a real difference in how he goes over dirt as opposed to synthetic,” Casse said. “I couldn’t have asked for him to do any better. He didn’t take a deep breath.”

Pool Play largely has competed on synthetic surfaces and turf throughout his career, but he is 2 for 2 on dirt, including a victory last time out in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. That race, like the Breeders’ Cup Classic, is at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

“He is a true mile-and-a-quarter horse,” Casse said.

There were 14 horses pre-entered in the Classic, but fewer are expected to enter the race on Monday. Royal Delta is expected to go in the Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 2. Nonios is cross-entered in the Dirt Mile. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said on Friday that no decision had yet been made on which Breeders’ Cup race he would compete in.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]