08/17/2012 4:54PM

Saratoga: Travers favorite Alpha maintains fitness with easy four-furlong work

Barbara D. Livingston
Barbara D. Livingston Alpha goes four furlongs in an easy 48.98 seconds Friday under Rob Massey.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Four months ago, it would have taken a leap of faith to believe Alpha would be the favorite for next Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Alpha came out of his second-place finish in the April 7 Wood Memorial with a cut on his shin and a grabbed quarter, putting his Kentucky Derby status in jeopardy. For better or worse, Alpha made the Derby, finishing 12th behind I’ll Have Another. Thereafter, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin targeted the Belmont Stakes for Alpha, but the colt was forced to miss that race when he developed a temperature about two weeks before the race.

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On July 28, it took Alpha a little less than two minutes to erase those bad memories with a front-running tour-de-force victory in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. That win, coupled with the illness incurred by Haskell winner Paynter, will likely make Alpha the favorite for the Travers against nine expected rivals.

“That’s what’s great about this game. You can’t really think about where you were. You got to always think about where you’re going,” McLaughlin said Friday.

On Friday, McLaughlin sent Alpha out for his final Travers workout and the colt went an easy four furlongs in 48.98 seconds under exercise rider Rob Massey. Alpha went his first quarter in 24.37 seconds and his second quarter in 24.51. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.88.

“He’s fit and running and we were not looking for a lot,” McLaughlin said. “We’re not going to get him fit with a five-eighths work. This was just maintenance work.”

McLaughlin said Alpha came out of the Jim Dandy in good order, but was a little keen in his training for the first week or two after the race.

“Now he’s back to his normal self,” McLaughlin said. “He looks fabulous right now. He’s put on quite a bit of weight. His attitude is great.”

Those expected for the Travers include Atigun, Fast Falcon, Five Sixteen, Hansen, Liaison, Neck ‘n Neck, Nonios, Stealcase, and Street Life.

Cogito out, Fast Falcon likely in

Owner Paul Reddam said Friday that Cogito, his Virginia-bred, European-based son of Giant’s Causeway, will not make the trip here from England for the Travers due to a muscle strain in his back.

Reddam said while the injury is not deemed serious, it was not worth shipping over “with the hopes of making the race.”

Meanwhile, trainer Nick Zito appears to be leaning toward running Fast Falcon in the Travers. Fast Falcon, seventh in the Jim Dandy after runner-up efforts behind Teeth of the Dog in the Easy Goer and Dwyer stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:00.88 Friday morning in company with the 3-year-old maiden Known Sense.

Zito said he wanted to discuss things with owner Richard Pell first before committing. He said, “As far as I’m concerned I want to run.”

Zito is throwing out Fast Falcon’s effort in the Jim Dandy due to the sloppy track.

“I loved his Easy Goer and I loved his Dwyer,” Zito said. “He reminds me of a horse that gets good at the right time. He’ll definitely run long. There’s no question.”

Junior Alvarado, who worked Fast Falcon on Friday, will ride him in the Travers, Zito said.

Easter Gift, another Zito 3-year-old who finished fourth in the Curlin Stakes, worked a very fast half-mile in 46.01 seconds, staring off with a workmate and then going after a Linda Rice-trained horse that had broken off in front of him.

Zito said no final decision has been made on where Easter Gift would make his next start, but he didn’t think it would be the Travers.

Bern Identity points to Hopeful

Trainer Kelly Breen wanted a brisk workout from Bern Identity Friday morning and got exactly that as the Sanford Stakes winner went four furlongs in 46.62 seconds over Saratoga’s main track. He went his first quarter in 23.76 and second quarter in 22.86. He galloped out five-eighths in 59.58.

“He sure came home fast,” Breen said. “We wanted him to finish up. I got the last eighth in 11-and-3. It was a pretty good work.”

Breen said Bern Identity would be pointed to the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes here on Sept. 3. Following the Sanford, Breen hinted that he was leaning toward keeping Bern Identity at six furlongs with an eye toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint in November at Santa Anita.

“We think seven furlongs is definitely in his wheelhouse,” said Breen, who trains Bern Identity for George and Lori Hall. “We’re going to see how he runs before we decide where we’re going to go and what we’re going to do. We’re taking it one race at a time.”

Lady Cohiba upsets Summer Guest

Lady Cohiba rebounded from a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Go for Wand Stakes at Delaware Park in June by running down Moment in Dixie inside the sixteenth pole to take Friday’s $98,000 Summer Guest Stakes.

Moment in Dixie held second by 2 1/4 lengths over Harbor Mist. Ciao Bella, the 4-5 favorite, finished fourth.

Sent off the longest shot on the board in the five-horse field, Lady Cohiba returned $29.80 to win.

After attempting to make an early inside move down the backside aboard Lady Cohiba, Joel Rosario backed his filly up and circled wide in the stretch to run down Moment in Dixie, who had wrested the lead from pacesetting Harbor Mist.

Lady Cohiba, a daughter of Broken Vow owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation and trained by Christophe Clement, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.66.

“She was a very nice 2-year-old and she was a bit disappointing in the last race at Delaware. Just didn’t like the track,” Clement said. “She trained very well in the morning, a pair of blinkers, a great ride from Rosario, and we got lucky.”