09/01/2013 12:51PM

Saratoga: Alpha, Flat Out eye Jockey Club Gold Cup

John Bambury
Alpha (inside) beats Flat Out by a head in Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Alpha and Flat Out, separated by a head in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward Stakes in the slop at Saratoga, could meet again next month at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a race Flat Out has won in each of the last two years.

Alpha, under an aggressive ride from John Velazquez, went gate to wire in the Woodward, holding off Flat Out, who drifted out a path or two in the stretch before trying to come back on Alpha.

On Sunday, Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Alpha, was  savoring the victory, Alpha’s first since he dead-heated for the win with Golden Ticket in the Travers last August. McLaughlin attributed Saturday’s win to a clean break, a heady ride from Velazquez, and Alpha’s affinity for the slop.

“Everything went great yesterday,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin noted that he had yet to talk with the principals of Godolphin Racing, which owns Alpha, but said the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 seemed like an obvious next target.

“What’s the long-range forecast?” joked Neal McLaughlin, Kiaran’s brother and assistant.

While Alpha ran his record at Saratoga to 4 for 5, Flat Out will be looking forward to returning to Belmont, where he is 5 for 6.

Bill Mott, the trainer of Flat Out, was lamenting the Woodward loss Sunday and said he believed jockey Junior Alvarado may have gotten a little excited and “hit him left-handed maybe one too many times.”

“I think we actually had the lead momentarily when we turned for home,” Mott said. “He thought if he got away from him, maybe the other horse wouldn’t be as game. But I do think the last time he hit him left-handed, I think the horse drifted out, and going sideways, it cost him forward momentum.”

Despite the runner-up finish, Flat Out did surpass the $3 million mark in career earnings.

Alpha and Flat Out each earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure for the Woodward.

Meanwhile, Strapping Groom earned a 104 Beyer for his front-running, half-length victory over Jackson Bend in the Grade 1 Forego.
Trainer and co-owner David Jacobson said he would consider the Grade 1 Vosburgh at six furlongs at Belmont on Sept. 28, depending upon how Strapping Groom comes out of Saturday’s race.

“He did run three times at Saratoga, two very hard, fast races, so it’s really up to him,” Jacobson said by phone from Aqueduct. “[We’ll] see how he is and how he comes back. With that said, my brother, Doug, is there, and he said he doesn’t even look like he ran; ate up last night, came out of his stall bouncing around like he always does.”

Strapping Groom, whom David Jacobson owns in partnership with Drawing Away Stable, will ship back to Aqueduct on Tuesday, Jacobson said.

The win came 24 hours after Saginaw, the popular 7-year-old New York-bred gelding Jacobson trained and owned with Drawing Away, suffered a fatal injury during Friday’s third race.

“Such an exciting win after such a tragedy the day before,” Jacobson said. “Picked everybody’s head up, including mine.”

Silver Max earned a 97 Beyer for his two-length victory over Paris Vegas in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap on Saturday, his eighth stakes victory.

Trainer Dale Romans said he would consider the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in early October for Silver Max, though he also is considering that race for Little Mike, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner.

“One of them will run in the Shadwell,” said Romans, who added that Silver Max will ship back to Kentucky in a few days.