07/27/2013 4:04PM

Saratoga: Mucho Macho Man, Alpha get in Whitney drills

Barbara D. Livingston
Edgar Prado guides Mucho Macho Man through a five-furlong work in 1:02.04 at Saratoga on Saturday.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Mucho Macho Man and Alpha completed their final preparations for next Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney Handicap with five-furlong workouts that took place nearly four hours apart here on Saturday morning.

Mucho Macho Man came out shortly after the track opened at 5:30 a.m., and with jockey Edgar Prado aboard worked five furlongs in 1:02.04. Prado got Mucho Macho Man to relax through a leisurely opening quarter in 25.74 and three-eighths in 37.67. Mucho Macho Man picked up the pace without need of much urging through the stretch, then continued on strongly into the turn, going another eighth past the wire in 12.18 to gallop out six furlongs in 1:14.22 before pulling up seven furlongs in 1:27.89.

Prado showed his appreciation for Mucho Macho Man’s effort by giving him a pat of approval as they galloped out around the turn.

“I couldn’t have been happier with the way he worked this morning,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo of Mucho Macho Man, hard-luck runner-up in the Grade 1 Woodward here last summer. “He relaxed nicely, finished strong; it was exactly what we wanted to see. Everything has gone perfectly for him schedule-wise coming into the Whitney. I think he’s training even better for this race than he did before the Woodward last year, part of the reason being he’s a lot smarter and much more mature horse now than he was back then. This is certainly going to be a very tough race, but I expect him to run well and we hope it’s the beginning of what will be a very successful second half of the season for him.”

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Alpha was one of the last horses to breeze over the main track on Saturday, going in company with stablemate Consortium. Alpha broke off about a length in front and inside his partner and maintained that advantage to the wire through a half-mile in 47.36 before going on an additional furlong on his own into the turn to complete five-eighths in 1:00.20.

Alpha, winner of the Travers here a year ago in a dead heat with Golden Ticket, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. He is undefeated in three starts at Saratoga.

“We were happy to see him work so well this morning because he hasn’t been working great of late,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “That’s one reason I put some company with him this morning, to help him work decent and see where we are at.”

McLaughlin has nominated Alpha to the Birdstone, a $100,000 overnight stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, and said he’d look at both that race and the Whitney before making a final decision where to run.

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

McLaughlin also said he was disappointed in the result but not the performance of Transparent, who crossed the finish line first only to be disqualified and placed fifth for causing interference in Friday’s Curlin Stakes.

“We did a great job training him for 113 days off, and I feel bad for the morale of my team, but the jockey made an error and I can’t say I disagree with the decision to take him down,” said McLaughlin. “But I’m very pleased with the effort and it was a true prep for the Travers. We’ll hopefully point that way.”