08/31/2013 7:10PM

Saratoga: Alpha all the way in Woodward

John Bambury
Alpha, on the rail with rider John Velazquez, holds on to his lead to defeat Flat Out in the Woodward.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In a race that became void of speed with each passing day, Alpha picked up the mantle of pacesetter under John Velazquez and used those front-running tactics to record a head victory over Flat Out in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at sloppy Saratoga.

It was 6 3/4 lengths back to Successful Dan in third, who was followed in the order of finish by Ron the Greek and the 3-2 favorite and expected pacesetter, Paynter.

Mucho Macho Man, who figured to be part of the pace, scratched because of the sloppy track. He will be sent to the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

Mucho Macho Man was the third speed horse to skip the Woodward. On Wednesday, front-running Whitney Invitational winner Cross Traffic did not enter. On Thursday, a day after entries were made, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned was scratched because of a pulled muscle in his hind end.

The defections appeared to leave California shipper Paynter as the main speed, though Alpha was adding blinkers and had won the Jim Dandy Stakes here last summer over a sloppy track, albeit through slow fractions. Alpha also won last year’s Travers, in a dead-heat with Golden Ticket, and was 3 for 4 over Saratoga’s main track.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Velazquez, who only picked up the mount on Alpha when Cross Traffic didn’t enter, came to the paddock with running on his mind and consulted with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin about putting Alpha in front.

“I told him if he breaks well and you can throw mud on the rest of them please do, and he agreed with me,” said McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing.

Alpha, kept a couple of paths off the rail by Velazquez, opened up a two-length lead through a quarter run in 24.46 seconds, a half-mile in 48.20 and six furlongs in 1:11.57 while being chased by Paynter with Flat Out in third.

Paynter faded entering the far turn - “I was out of horse by the half-mile pole,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said - but Flat Out, under Junior Alvarado, picked up the chase.

Alvarado said when Flat Out first got to Alpha, that horse fought him off, so Alvarado tried to take him a little to the outside in hopes that Alpha wouldn’t see him. But Flat Out may have drifted out too far, because when Alvarado got him back on course, he couldn’t catch the front-runner.

“I said let me take a shot, maybe if I go a little bit wide maybe he’ll hang a little bit, but it didn’t work,” Alvarado said.

Alpha, who had lost six straight races since winning last year’s Travers, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.28 and returned $17.40 as the longest shot on the board.

“Once that horse didn’t pass me at the three-sixteenths pole I knew my horse was going to put up a good fight, and obviously he did and kept a head in front,” Velazquez said.

Alpha completed his 3-year-old season by finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. McLaughlin said it was unclear what the future holds for Alpha, who has now won 6 of 16 starts and banked $1,772,500.
“I don’t know exactly what will happen now, at least he’s proven it wasn’t just a one-race wonder,” McLaughlin said. “We beat some nice horses today.”


Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
To say the least this was a weird race accompanied by the sloppy conditions, I don't think anyone knows what happened or where it leads there horse from here. Had to be disappointing to the Paynter camp as a feeler for GOD but looked overmatched. Flat OUT the most consistent who had not been training so great ran credible. The others even ALPHA I don't think they know what to think.
russell More than 1 year ago
The fact that Alpha has won two Gr1s is a little disturbing but it truly shows how great Kirian McLaughlin is. If i ever had a lot of money to toss around owning horses my #1 pick would be McLaughlin followed by Motion and Mott. The slop can be an excuse if you keep getting hit with it in the face at 35mph. Otherwise its usually a very firm footing on the bottom.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Great to see Alpha rounding back. He looks to have really filled out, and matured. Thomas is correct about the blinkers. The race definately fell apart in the days leading up, but it was still a nice game win.( I had Flat Out) Would love to see Turralure bounce back, but he just does'nt seem to have the same kick as he once did.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Velasquez had him moving as the latch dropped. He's gotten as good leaving there as Tio Angel!
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
This is For Peter R. Oaklawn park is not in new Jersey it is in Arkansas. Before you rip my opinion at least know what you are talking about. Zenyatta ran three time total out of California. Twice in Hot spring, Arkansas and once in Louisville,kentucky. What race in new jersey did zenyatta race in. Smh. Opinions are Opinions but facts are facts. When I make a mistake regarding a fact I have no problem telling everyone on here I was wrong. Next topic still dissapointed in paynter no excuse next race should be allowance if he wins go to Clark. No breeders. Sloppy most over use excuse in racing.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Rahman, there are definitely horses who don't like the slop though. I think Paynter deserves another shot at a Graded Field, but maybe they should look at what Grade 3's or Grade 2's are available rather than trying the JCGC (even if as a fan, I would like to see him in that race). I have a feeling you're right that they should not try the Breeder's Cup. I've always thought he was just a notch below the best. Side story - one of my best scores ever at Emerald Downs (my local track that rarely pays well) was with a sloppy track. I watched the parade closely and the odds on favorite (3 to 5) was almost trying to shake the mud from his hooves. It was clear he hated the surface and I left him off all my bets. He didn't fire out of the gate and really did no running the whole race. I didn't get a chance to see the Woodward post parade, but Paynters' run made me think of this.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Clarck is perfect spot for him. My problem Scott is my standard Curlin and Cigar ran everywhere. Win I think of grade one level races I say Curlin Cigar no excuses. That is just ne I know everybody says I am crazy but I have lost to much money on horses that won slop races betting against the horse I thought was the best horses. I would like to know did orb ever run in the slop before derby. I won the exacta and must admit use ap Indy pedigree angle about slop horses. But real reason was I thought he was better horse than vz, golden cents and. Revolutionary. I thought if it was a fast track orb would of been at least second and a real close on at that. Maybe a grindstone 96 race
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
pass the salt please as the crow im eating tastes better with salt...painter never showed up.
Vinod Jhangimal More than 1 year ago
Set a place at the table for me too, Mr. Vaccarelli.......yeeesh
kwtalk More than 1 year ago
This set up perfectly for Alpha. I'm really happy for him and all connections.
Holybull More than 1 year ago
Two quick observations: Alpha's winning time for the mile and an eighth is always 149 and change. Whether he does it in the slop or that fast track. All other except for Flat out hated the track. Paynter is not so great after all. He's another G.O.D. of sorts. Very comfortable at home against the weak competition and a total flop against top flight older horses outside of Ca. Bob Baffert is a quarter horse trainer who has parlayed his speed training skills into thoroughbreds but is only effective in his home turf. Rarely winning a race outside Ca Baffert suddenly looks as vulnerable as his filly did yesterday in the Del Mar Debutante. I'll take DWL over any of these cats any day.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
. If G.O.D wins the BCC it's because of the track.and if he loses it's because of the competition? He is the best horse in training this year.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Big Jeff, it's hard not to root for a horse that tries as hard as Game On Dude (and one we actually get to see for several years), but if you bet on him to win the BCC, then you will be losing your money. The competition out West this year is way below that of back East (I'm from Washington State, so this is an objective opinion and I would love it to be different, but it's the simple truth). Game On Dude has had an exceptional season and is the front runner for HOTY honors in my opinion and with a top 3 finish in the BCC should take home that prize with no debate. However, this doesn't mean he's the best horse in training by any means. It means he had the most successful campaign. Cover him in your Exotics in the 3rd tier for sure and watch the workouts to see if he should be in the 2nd tier, but don't even consider him for the top spot unless a plague hits the East Coast contenders.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Does Todd ever win a race in California. Oh he does not try even though big cap purse higher than donn hcp and Pacific classic higher than Woodward. I think people should remember game on dude is gelding it all about purse money. No reason to travel for less. At least bb ships his colts and fillies to east coast to run. He won the blackeyed Susan this year and acorn. He trained fast bullet to win true north. New trainer lukas sure had some good results with seventh place finish yesterday in forego. Todd has not won classic either
Scott More than 1 year ago
It's an excellent point about Game On Dude and the purse money. He's made a ton and this year especially, there was no reason to travel. The biggest purse of the year is in his own back yard. It's also worth noting that Baffert sent GOD to Dubai to try the World Cup. Note: I thought it was a terrible choice for a horse who seemed to run his best races on dirt and no the syns.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Your crazy to think Paynter is in the same league as game on dude. Wake up in the morning rather than doing absolutely nothing.
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
Baffert rarely wins outside Ca.? Thats one of the dumbest, and most inaccurate remarks I have seen. If you are going to lie, at least make it a good one.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
People love to lie on here. Thev Haskell three in a row is in California I guess Smh. One of his horses who is a six year gelding does not go east to run in the saintly Woodward all of a sudden he never wins back east. Funny
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
I hope Paynter is OK. I was worried about him racing again so soon after winning his last. Also, the trip to NY from Ca might have simply caused him physical problems. Hope Paynter is OK.
Mark More than 1 year ago
lost his race prior to woodward also . 1/3 since comeback . beaten more as class level rises.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Oh, come on. If this year's pseudo-Woodward is to be taken at face value, the Alpha is the best older horse in the East. Do you believe that? No? Then the race can't be taken at face value. Paynter is coming back from being at death's door; that means debilitation and loss of muscle mass, as his body consumed it to survive. He has had to start as if he were going into training for the first time. Did Baffert send him up the scale before he was ready? Maybe.
russell More than 1 year ago
What a garbage race.
Micky Reed More than 1 year ago
what do you expect from a 5 horse race in the Slop?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
What a trash comment... You lost it russell.
nicola c More than 1 year ago
its definitely true on a sloppy track you get sloppy results, i had a small each way bet on him so im happy, he loves Saratoga has the Jim Dandy, Travers, and now the Woodward. fair play to him i don't remember many doing that if anyone else did ? i could be wrong.
Peter R More than 1 year ago
What happen in the Whitney? I could of walked the track faster, he had lost 6 straight including an allowance race. Complete garbage race, its a complete toss for any horse but Flat Out who always shows up in the mud.