02/28/2012 3:25PM

Gulfstream Park: Florida Derby possible for Alpha

Tom Keyser
Alpha is being considered for a start in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

The likelihood of a small field for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 31, plus the chance to keep jockey Ramon Dominguez on Alpha, has trainer Kiaran McLaughlin pondering the Florida Derby for Alpha, who still has the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 as a potential final Kentucky Derby prep, too.

McLaughlin said the victory by Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Sunday might help keep the field size small for the Florida Derby. But McLaughlin also is looking down the line at a possible conflict for the Wood with Dominguez.

Dominguez is scheduled to ride Hansen on Saturday at Aqueduct in the Gotham, and if Hansen were to win that race easily, there is a chance Alpha might need a new rider should he run in the Wood and have to face Hansen.

So, while McLaughlin is not committing to the Florida Derby, he’s at least looking at it as a viable option, depending on how events unfold in the next few weeks.

“We’re taking a strong look at the Florida Derby,” McLaughlin said Tuesday from Palm Meadows, where Alpha has been training since he captured the Withers at Aqueduct in his last start. “It might come up a five-horse field. And we know Ramon will be here that day to ride Grace Hall in the [Gulfstream Park] Oaks.”