08/02/2013 2:29PM

Del Mar: Alpine Luck may change tactics in Best Pal

Shigeki Kikkawa
Gary Stevens may have to position Alpine Luck in a stalking position in Sunday's Best Pal Stakes.

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Jockey Gary Stevens is unbeaten in two starts on the 2-year-old Alpine Luck this summer. The style the Hall of Famer has used to accomplish the mini-winning streak makes trainer Mike Harrington chuckle.

“The first time he rode him, I said, ‘Ride him like he’s a route horse,’ ” Harrington recalled telling Stevens. “He went to the front and drew off.”

Stevens guided Alpine Luck to wins in a maiden race on June 22 and in the $150,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 13, leading throughout in both. The tactics may change when Alpine Luck makes his graded stakes debut in Sunday’s $150,000, Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar.

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This time, Harrington really thinks that Stevens will be riding Alpine Luck from off the pace in the field of seven.

“I don’t envision him being a front-runner here,” Harrington said. “It looks like there is a lot of speed. He’s had two nice workouts since he ran. He seems to be on target.”

Alpine Luck was third in two maiden races in May. He has earned $146,784 in his first four starts for owner-breeder Heinz Steinmann.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

The Best Pal is a key prep for the $300,000, Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 4. Sunday’s race drew a field of seven, including the Northern California stakes winner Skydreamin; four maiden race winners, Alberts Hope, Celtic Moon, Easy Solution, and Guns Loaded; and the maiden Ontology, who was second in the Hollywood Juvenile.

Skydreamin, trained by Jeff Bonde, won the Everett Nevin Futurity at 5 1/2 furlongs at Pleasanton on July 7.

Alpine Luck is likely to be near the front, chasing a pace expected to be set by Guns Loaded, a winner here on July 20, and Celtic Moon, who won a five-furlong maiden race on turf at Hollywood Park on July 7.

Guns Loaded is the only runner in the Best Pal field with racing experience over the track, which trainer Cody Autrey considers an asset.

“We think he could move forward off his last race,” Autrey said. “This is the most logical spot. We don’t usually run back in two weeks, but it’s this or wait five or six weeks for the Futurity.”

The timing of the Best Pal played a factor in Alberts Hope’s presence in the race, trainer Mike Puype said. A winner in his debut at five furlongs on the synthetic main track at Hollywood Park on July 14, Alberts Hope could start in the Futurity if he runs well on Sunday, or could run in the $100,000 Barretts Juvenile Stakes at Fairplex Park later in September.

“I don’t like running back in three weeks,” Puype said. “That’s not my forte. I want to see if he’s good enough for the Futurity. It’s a big jump to go to the futurity after a maiden. I think this is right thing to do.”

Alberts Hope closed from fourth in a field of nine to beat maidens as a 33-1 outsider in his debut. Puype said he expects improvement, saying that Alberts Hope was not fully prepared for his first start.

“I didn’t have him 100 percent cranked,” Puype said. “He’s worked well on the track and I expect him to run well.

“It’s a competitive race. Most of them have tactical speed or speed. My horse showed he can come from off the pace.”