06/04/2012 12:16PM

Northlands Park: Walcott opts for Alisal in sprint


Jockey Rico Walcott had to make a tough call when choosing between Minutesandtouches and Alisal who stand out in a second-level allowance race that will serve as Wednesday’s feature at Northlands Park. The six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up drew eight horses, but it is hard to get past Minutesandtouches and Alisal.

Minutesandtouches, an easy winner of a first-level allowance race May 18, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Nonetheless, Walcott opted to ride Alisal.

Trained by Rod Cone, Alisal is coming off a second-place finish behind Up Jumps a Monster in six-furlong, second-level allowance race May 21. It was Alisal’s first start at Northlands and also his initial start of the year.

Alisal figures to improve when he stretches out and could be a factor in the older handicap division when they start going around three turns. In his only other start on dirt, he finished second in the 1 1/8-mile $50,000 Gold Cup at Assiniboia Downs last year. He started 2011 in Florida, where he won a mile $35,000 maiden claiming race on turf April 8, before shipping to Woodbine, where he came right back to win a first-level allowance race going 1 1/16 miles over Polytrack.

Alisal figures to move forward with a race under his belt and following a sharp workout in 49.80 seconds last Friday, Walcott’s agent, Bob Fowlis, said Walcott is expecting him to do just that.

“Rico really liked the way Alisal felt when he worked him,” Fowlis said. “He was very impressed with the move.”

Minutesandtouches, trained by Robert MacDonald, couldn’t have been more impressive when he came back from more than a year layoff to romp by 5 3/4 lengths over Pure Glory in a first-level allowance race May 18. Walcott put him into a stalking position early, moved him into contention at the quarter pole, and then opened up a two-length advantage at the eighth pole before widening his advantage in the stretch. Not only was it a visually impressive performance, he earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure, easily the best last-race figure in the field. It also was a career-best figure, and considering how long he had been away, he could bounce. In his previous start, he set the pace before tiring to finish fourth in a $25,000 claiming race over a wet-fast track at Santa Anita on March 25, 2011.

Stephan Heiler picks up the mount from Walcott.

Dakobra, third in the same race Alisal exits, looks like the only other serious threat.