07/29/2012 9:11AM

Saratoga: Alpha has history on his side for Travers

Tom Keyser
Alpha, winner of Saturday's Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, will make his next start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In addition to being an astute horseman, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin also is a student of history. So on Sunday morning, he was quick to point out that in 2011 the horse that finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby came back to win the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

That horse, Stay Thirsty, is a son of Bernardini, who in 2006 also won the Jim Dandy and Travers.

McLaughlin trains Alpha – a son of Bernardini – who after finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby won Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy by two lengths at Saratoga and will now attempt to add the $1 million Travers on Aug. 25 to his resume.

“If we can do that, that would be great,” said McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing.

McLaughlin already received word from Godolphin Racing manager Simon Crisford that the Travers is the next start for Alpha, who emerged from his race in good order.

“He cooled out quickly and pulled up great,” McLaughlin said.

In the Jim Dandy, Alpha went gate to wire under Ramon Dominguez, covering 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy track in 1:50.47 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

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McLaughlin said that those front-running tactics worked Saturday, but Alpha has already been successful from off the pace should the pace scenario shape up differently in the Travers.

“It was just circumstances yesterday,” McLaughlin said on Sunday. “One hole, wet track, no pace; Ramon thought the same as I did, we need to be forward into the first turn and see what happens. He thought we might be tucked in third.”

The Travers pace scenario will come more into focus following Sunday’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and next weekend’s West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. Paynter, a front-runner, is the favorite in the Haskell, while Hansen, another front-runner, is likely to be favored in the West Virginia Derby.

Trainer Ian Wilkes would like more pace in the Travers for his Jim Dandy runner-up Neck ’n Neck. Despite the loss Saturday, Wilkes said he was very pleased with his colt’s performance and is looking forward to the Travers.

“He was very good in the paddock, he handled the paddock better, he ran straighter, truer, I was just second best yesterday,” Wilkes said Sunday morning. The Travers “pace scenario will be different, it’ll be a different race, maybe a drier track.”

Others pointing to the Travers are Curlin Stakes 1-2 finishers Street Life and Five Sixteen, their connections said Sunday.

One Jim Dandy horse who will not run back in the Travers is fourth-place finisher Teeth of the Dog. Trainer Michael Matz, who believes his horse didn’t handle the wet track, will point Teeth of the Dog to the Smarty Jones at Parx Racing, followed by the Pennsylvania Derby, also at Parx.