07/29/2012 10:11AM

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.

[Complete coverage of racing at Saratoga: News, PPs, and video]

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.

Dogs Up More than 1 year ago
I'll go with the odds are against three races in 2011 same horse, repeating itself in the following year as a coincidence, especically three events, not two. The Dandy wasn't one. Slop, sealed, mud, 114 at six. No compression on the leader. Alpha will have real horses in his face for the complete mile and a quarter duration in Travers.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Pay attention to what McLaughlin says.. he cooled out quickly... meaning he barely put forth any effort. This was a perfect tightener for The Travers and Paynter as good as he is came out of The Haskell with issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What are the odds alone of the two unrelated events happening again, the 12th finish KD, then Dandy & Travers. Plus a slow muddy sealed track race, wire to wire. I'm taking it to say on chances, he will not win it, and don't have him down to win it anyway.
Chas Glazer More than 1 year ago
I for one welcome Paynter and anyone else taking on Alpha in the Travers...Look at Alpha's breeding - big time distance...It was a shame he missed the Belmont Stakes as he was my choice...Alpha showed a different style in the JIm Dandy and that he likes the surface at Saratoga....My guess is that Paynter will go off at even or 4/5 and Alpha 2nd choice at maybe? 2-1...Alpha will take the Travers and pay a better return than he did in the Jim Dandy because of Paynter and Baffert....
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
THE GRAVEYARD OF HONESTY OR THE PLAY YARD OF THIEVES,thats what this track should be called,it the place were they can curral all the inocent sheep for slaughter.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Let Alpha go to the lead again, and Paynter stalk. Haha another runaway. Bring on the older horses Paynter for HOY!
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Alpha also had everything ridiculously his own way in the Jim Dandy. 1:14 for 6 furlongs over a track that wasn't particularly slow. If anyone believes Alpha will have anything close to that easy of a scenario in the Travers will be badly mistaken.. Don't get me wrong. Alpha's a nice horse, and he had enough versatility and quality to take advantage of the lack of pace. But the Travers will present much, much tougher competition and very different circumstances. With Union Rags off to breeding, is Alpha now being asked to carry the torch of New York/East Coast racing in the 3 year old division? The strength of these 3 year olds has been in California and on Sunday we saw the next wave from there with Paynter crushing the Haskell with a 108 Beyer. Unlike Bodemeister, Paynter won't be undone by sending other speed at him, and 10 furlongs should be right in his wheelhouse. Given the lack of pace, Bodemeister might have won the Jim Dandy for fun, and I'm beginning to believe Paynter is even better. Nonios ran 2nd in the Haskell almost to emphasize the quality of the Cali contingent of 3 year olds. And why no mention of Liaison? He missed the break, was next to last behind those sorry Jim Dandy fractions, had to go wide, but yet ran 3rd beaten just 2 by Neck n Neck for 2nd.
Mark Robbens More than 1 year ago
Liason really? So u say west coast and paynter better than bode. Ok i ll agree with paynter better than bode. So if Rags an east coast horse handled paynter in the grade one belmont and ill have another barely beat bode twice how has that make the strength in the west coast? Toss rags derby as julian gave a horrible hortible ride out of the gate. Rags was the real deal. Division wide open. Travers winner will take hold of top spot. Paynter alpha hansen nonios may come street life etc etc etc
MJP More than 1 year ago
So you want to toss Rags' Derby and put all sorts of value on the Belmont? The Belmont is dissimilar to every other major race and he had a dream rail path open up for him there. He was demolished in the Derby simply because he wasn't close to as good as IHA even on his best day. IHA was a vastly better racehorse than UR. He ground up in a painfully slow Belmont after the big horse went down but there is no evidence he was any better than the likes of Sarava or Jazil, in fact his was the 4th slowest Belmont in 40 years.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
if your bode was mugged in the KD where would he have ended up?
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Listen, Union Rags was a quality horse no doubt. But the Paynter he beat that day will not be the Paynter we see the rest of the year. Think about this-Paynter had made one start, a 5.5 furlong maiden race, when April started. One race at the start of April! Then, just 2 months later he was asked to run 12 furlongs in a race like the Belmont. And face a real pro in Union Rags. The Belmont was an ambitious spot for Paynter. But he grew up in that race. I guess Union Rags fans can take some pride in the fact that the Belmont was the race and he was the horse to give Paynter that baptism by fire. But Paynter looks all set for much bigger things now. As for West Coast dominance among the 3 year olds, the evidence is overwhelming. Evidence, not opinion. 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby. 1-2-3 in the Preakness. 2nd in the Belmont without their top 2. And now in the biggest post-Triple Crown race thus far, 1-2. You can't argue scoreboard. And the division is not wide open as it concerns an Eclipse. I'll Have Another has that wrapped up. Paynter, because of Baffert's accelerated schedule, simply lost too many times earlier in the year. Even had Union Rags remained healthy, he was facing a similar scenario; people can explain away all they want, but the FACT is Union Rags was hitting 50% this year and lost head-to-head to IHA. Bode needed to run in and win the Haskell to have any shot of making up for his 0-2 record vs. IHA. Paynter is no cinch to win the Travers; no horse is ever a cinch. But he is clearly, clearly the horse to beat as long as he remains healthy. As for Liaison, I mention him because he had a terrible trip in the Jim Dandy. I don't know if he's better than Alpha, I just know Alpha had everything his way in that race and Liaison had little go right. Yet, Liaison finished a respectable 3rd. That's all. But if Paynter runs his race, Liaison has repeatedly shown that he can't beat the elite of the division. And I'm not gung ho on all West Coast racing. The older females in Cali are weak, as are the 3 year old fillies, and the female turf horses. The male marathon turf division has Acclamation and Bourbon Bay, but not much else. The handicap division is top heavy and shallow, although turf horses like Acclamtion and Suggestive Boy will make the Pacific Clssic an excellent race. Handicapping is not about cheering on a side to the point of bias. It's about using rational analysis to determine the best horses. In the 3 year old male division, it's really obvious that the Cali group was and is simply superior. If you haven't picked up on it yet, I would hate to think how much money you've lost betting the Triple Crown and Haskell.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
The Triple crown has been very good to me this year. I'm an east coast player, but that has nothing to do with playing horses, The Cali horses have been superior ever since Bode ran that 108 in the Ark Derby, Then 1-2 in the Ky Derby with CC 5th Liason 6th. 1-2-3 fin in the preakness. Then Paynters run in the Derby trial running similar fractions to Bode 109 and change and finishing 2nd, then blew away alw company with a 106 Beyer. I felt he'd be the upset horse against IHA in the Belmont. But he lost to UR on his home track, but Paynter doesn't need one track to run well. Another sign of class is how much competition a horse can withstand and keep comming back. It was clear Paynter was is still is classier than Gemologist, Union Rags, Alpha, Dullahan. It was eviident back in April, and May and is still evident.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
if paynter wins out through the BCC he will certainly be top 3YO and possibly HOY---his earlier races will be forgotten by the voters
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Alpha is the horse to beat in The Travers. Coming off a 3 month layoff he was bound to show speed. Even though the race was slow considering the sloppy track he showed a nice kick pulling away from Neck and Neck in the stretch. His only bad races came at Churchill where he obviously doesn't like the surface. With a race over the track and this win under his belt he looks really tough. Paynter is probably his only concern with Neck and Neck over a fast track. Congratulations to his connections. Was a nice idea to let him run and not choke the race out of him.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Alpha won't get the lead in the Travers and Paynter won't get passed. Case closed.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Alpha doesn't need the lead. My point is that he was supposed to be in front off the layoff with no pace in the race. Who has Paynter beat? Union Rags jogged by him in The Belmont, and in The Haskell, who did he beat? Most of that field are synthetic or turf horses, and Gemologist isn't that good either. With a race over Saratoga's course Alpha has AN ADVANTAGE... THAT'S MY POINT. So please stop trying to distort my analysis. I said it's a 3 horse race.. Alpha, Paynter, Neck and Neck, with Gemologist also having the tightener.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
Oh yeah.... I keep forgetting. It has NOTHING to do with pace scenario. It all is determined by "who-beat-who". Bet early and bet often, my friend. You'll never be a consistant winner at the track with that thinking. WHO BAT WHO...LOL
Mark Robbens More than 1 year ago
Gemologist needed one
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Aye, and may have shipped last minute to 'fill' the race. Good eye.
mrm More than 1 year ago
WinStar doesn't fill races. They have races written for them.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
Yeah............ONE.................. furlong less!!! Another glorified sprinter, just like Bode. Older horses will have the likes of Gem and Bode backing up with legit paces.
MJP More than 1 year ago
Not if Paynter runs. If he does, Alpha is in danger of being lapped. Look at how the massively overrated Gemologist was crushed today. Any questions?
Mark Robbens More than 1 year ago
Umm paynter beat gemologist coming off a 3 month layoff and a couple of grade 3 dirt horses today. Alpha twice the horse anything he faced today.
John More than 1 year ago
We shall see, but don't think that 96 Beyer on a sloppy track with a lone f trip is going scare anyone. Well maybe it's enough to keep Hansen out.( like he was really going to the Travers anyway)
bleck1022 More than 1 year ago
anytime you post a BSF of 108 these days you gotta be one helluva horse. paynter has now become the best of baffert's 4 3 year olds. bode is impressive, but one-dimensional, and only at a mile and an eighth. paynter is versatile and can run with you all day long, at a range of distances. baffert OWNS this year and has the best shot at the BCC with game on dude and paynter.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Don't forget Blueskiesandrainbows another very good colt.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
did you forget there are other older horses with that statement?
MJP More than 1 year ago
Um, no. Gemologist was ready to run, Pletcher was working him steadily and sharply, all the Gem fans were saying he looked like a million bucks. Pletcher does not run short horses in big races. Where have you been? Paynter is just a far better racehorse. Alpha won a plodfest jogging along in 50 seconds. Paynter ran a 108.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
There fixing them good today at Saratoga. Dominguez keeps Karlovy Vary in traffic all the way around at 3-5. Was so obvious.
MaryAnn Donahue More than 1 year ago
Are you stating that the Saratoga jockeys are colluding to fix races? That seems like a big stretch to me.
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
Dominguez is vastly overrated, the ride he gave Karlovy was criminal, he rides way to many races that way. Remember his 2 most famous rides were on Better Talk Now who shouldv'e been DQ'd for interfering with half the field in the BC turf and Scrappy T who he almost killed Afleet Alex with his carelessness...
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
The #2 was a lock in that race. He was one of my 5 key bets for the day. Quit looking at time. The horse is a synthetic specialist. Not a turfer.