Haskin's Derby Trail: What's it all About, Alpha?

As of today, or better still, as of this hour, Alpha is running in the Wood Memorial (gr. I)…again. If Alpha was a person planning a vacation, he’d have a room full of brochures from different places and probably would be driving his travel agent batty.

No one can claim the Alpha Adventures have been boring, and he hasn’t even gone anywhere.

It is apparent that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner, Godolphin Racing, are trying everything in their power to either assure that Alpha wins his final Derby prep, or has the easiest race possible. At this point he ranks 13th on the graded earnings list and has pretty much secured a spot in the starting gate on May 5. To give him the best chance to win or have an easy go of it they have changed their plans on several occasions and have finally opted for the Wood Memorial, for now. It is the catalysts for the constant changes that make them so interesting and in some ways amusing. In short, their decisions are based on nothing more than what other horses are doing.

There is no way of knowing until the first Saturday in May if the path of least resistance is the best path to prepare him for the Kentucky Derby. Their thinking could be, with Alpha’s distance-oriented pedigree and his two-month vacation, it makes more sense to wait until the 10 furlongs of the Derby to take on the likes of Union Rags, Hansen, El Padrino, and Gemologist.

Let’s go way back to immediately following his victory in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) when it was assumed and even hinted that Alpha would naturally make his next start in the Wood Memorial after taking a break from the Derby trail and sunning himself for two months down in Florida. But with the horse already in Florida, it was decided to run instead in the Florida Derby (gr. I).

Everything seemed to be right on schedule until Union Rags did a great impersonation of Spectacular Bid and decimated his foes in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) without raising a sweat. That got McLaughlin and Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford wondering if it would be wise to take on Hercules in their final Derby prep. Their mind was made up for them when another of the Derby favorites, El Padrino, changed his plans and set his sights for the Florida Derby instead of the Louisiana Derby. No way Team Alpha was going butt heads with two of the top 3-year-olds in the country, so it was back to the Wood Memorial, where they would only have to face last year’s 2-year-old champ Hansen, who was coming off an impressive victory in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III). This wasn’t exactly going to be an easy task, but a much better alternative than the Florida Derby, as far as winning the race.

No sooner had they made that decision when trainer Todd Pletcher, as he had done with El Padrino, threw a monkey wrench in their plans again by announcing that the undefeated Gemologist was heading for the Wood Memorial following his stroll-in-the-park romp in an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream. Bye, bye Wood Memorial. Once again, Pletcher had chased Alpha out of his intended race. That left Plan C.

So, instead of vanning to Gulfstream from Palm Meadows, as originally intended, and instead of flying to New York, which was Plan B, Alpha was all but booked on a flight to New Orleans to fill the vacancy left by El Padrino in the Louisiana Derby.

But then came word that Hansen’s connections had changed their plans and were now pointing the champ to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack, rather than travel back up to New York. They also were looking for the easiest path. Before you could say “Big Easy to Big Apple,” Alpha was back in the Wood. Of course, if Union  Rags should fail to make the Florida Derby, he would change course yet again.  Wherever he winds up, this no doubt will be the most indecisive, yet entertaining, Derby campaign in memory.

The question is, will so many changes of plans hinder Alpha’s chances in the Kentucky Derby? As defensive as Team Alpha’s strategy might be, they really have done nothing from a travel standpoint and a timing standpoint to suggest they have compromised his chances in any way on May 5. It’s more fascinating in its unusualness than anything else. If Alpha were human he might be getting an inferiority complex from ducking so many horses, but because he has no idea what’s going on he still has the same chance of winning the Kentucky Derby as he did two months ago. It all comes down to whether he’s good enough.

Oh, and by the way, as far as their latest change, Team Alpha might be interested to know that there has been only one Louisiana Derby winner (Grindstone) to win the Kentucky Derby in the past 86 years, for whatever that’s worth.

As for Godolphin, it is understandable if they want to handle Alpha with kid gloves, having already lost the immensely promising Out of Bounds and the talented Consortium to injury. They have been trying to win the Derby for over a decade and finally have figured out the right way to go about it. Alpha has the right running style, the right pedigree, and the right trainer. We can’t add the right jockey, because we don’t know who that jockey is going to be. They are so intent on winning the next race they keep naming jockeys who as of now are riding more accomplished horses in the Derby, whether it’s Ramon Dominguez or Julien Leparoux, who have had just as much trouble keeping track of Alpha’s plans as anyone. Horses can and do win the Derby with first-time jockeys, but it is still preferable to have a rider aboard who knows the horse.

Alpha also will be going into the Kentucky Derby off only one race in 13 weeks, but McLaughlin nearly pulled that off with 71-1 shot Closing Argument in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Invasor off a three-month layoff after the colt missed his prep in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) due to a virus. Last year, Alpha finished second to Union Rags in the grade I Champagne Stakes in only his second career start. So, McLaughlin knows how to get a horse ready for a big race off minimal racing.

Regardless of what you might think of his chances on May 5, there is no denying that Alpha is one of the more interesting horses on this year’s Derby trail, and a victory for McLaughlin and the Maktoum family would be a crowning achievement for one of the longest and most loyal relationships in racing.

59 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Mike Monarchos

Steve,

Alpha going back to the Wood. Interesting. With Hansen going to the Bluegrass it does make the Wood easier. But it also makes it easier for Gemologist. Neither colt has to win, but Gemologist has to get at least 2nd and Alpha probably needs 3rd for both to have enough graded stakes earnings.

Steve how serious do you think Gemologist's problem is with his left front leg. Have you seen him in person? I watched the replay of his last race several times and it didn't look that bad to me. I'm

no expert though!

22 Mar 2012 7:20 PM
Betsy

Steve, I think this is the most ridiculous handling of a horse I've ever seen. I've never seen connections so down on a horse before, especially one as promising as Alpha. I thought it was bad when Pletcher trained Stay Thirsty based on what Uncle Mo was doing, but this is far worse. Kieran and Godolphin are now racing Alpha based on what every other good 3 year old is doing or not doing.

Union Rags is a very nice horse, but he's not Man o'War and he shouldn't be ducked. Ducking El Padrino and Hansen is beyond foolish.

Clearly Alpha's connections are not that high on him, so IMO, as he's a small horse anyway, they should take him off the TC trail.

Ugh, this whole thing aggravates me. AS much as I love Bernardini, I find it very hard to root for this horse now because of his connections.

22 Mar 2012 8:06 PM
Annir

Steve I thought Out of Bounds was a Darley horse?  If not my bad.

Also, any news on My Miss Aurelia?  She just kind of vanished...

And GREAT article!

22 Mar 2012 8:18 PM
Pedigree Ann

Monarchos lost the Wood Memorial, but it proved a perfect prep race, because he had to run hard. Point Given did not get a tough race in his preparation and, among other well publicized problems in the race, he may have been short.

Being bred to stay is not enough by itself to win a staying race like the Derby; the horse must be racing fit, as well, which many of today's owners and trainers fail to recognize. 'Freshness' may help sprinters, but fitness is required of stayers.

22 Mar 2012 8:24 PM
georgeszary

I can only say that I am greatfull none of these guys trained Damascus, Dr. Fager or Buckpasser.  Imagine how much poorer our sport would be...Thanks for your great columns Steve.

22 Mar 2012 8:29 PM
Age of Reason

Whither Alpha? Word on the street has it that Paynter is having soundness issues and might not make the Illinois Derby, look for McLaughlin to declare for that race next. Lol!

22 Mar 2012 9:28 PM
Ranagulzion

My observation is that the connections of the remaining AP Indy line colts are being very tactical to ensure that they get to the Derby healthy.  I don't blame them in view of the late development and forced-into-injury syndrome. First it was El Padrino, then Take Charge Indy, now it is Hansen and Aplha.

I dont expect El Padrino to challenge Union Rags all out in the Florida Derby and still be a factor in the Kentucky Derby. Therefore I think that they'll take it easy with him and go primed for his biggest effort in five weeks.  

Take Charge Indy will be the one going after Union Rags at Gulfstream. He could turn the table on El Padrino in the scenario that i envision and fill the exacta spot.

Gemologist is turning into a top contender and has Hansen and Alpha running scared. He will not be denied in the Wood memorial.  

22 Mar 2012 9:37 PM
Steve Haskin

Annir, Out of Bounds won the Sham in the Darley collors, but he had been switched to Godolphin for the San Felipe and then got hurt. If he hadnt gotten hurt he would have run in Godolphin's colors.

22 Mar 2012 9:41 PM
predict

Great article, Steve, and I loved that title. I can just see your "And Their Off" partner, Lenny, smiling and chuckling at that one.

22 Mar 2012 10:16 PM
7 1/2 Furlongs

Steve -

    So the connections of Alpha are wavering on their horse's next race.  Do they know the way to San Jose?  From there, it's only a 400-mile trip south to Santa Anita Park.  The SA Derby is scheduled to be run on April 8.

22 Mar 2012 11:12 PM
furlongs

I thought Take Charge Indy not running at Tampa and pointing to FL Derby was bad enough but looking at the plans on where to race next for Alpha tops it all! Wood then FL Derby then Wood then Lou Derby now Wood again. Looks like the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in that stable! I mean its not saying much when your publicly telling the world you don't think your horse can beat Union, Hansen and El Padrino. I was really liking Alpha off his last win too but after reading all this he is slowly becoming a complete throw out when he races in Louisville if you ask me. Don't know which is more negative running your horse where he can't win (TCI in FL Derby) or running your horse against nothing but cupcakes all the way up to the Derby! Although I have a feeling that the Tampa Derby winner is better then most of us give him credit for. As for Gemologist while he looks like he could be a good one, I am going to take a stand against him its just not like Pletcher to sit on a horse that looked that impressive off the layoff. He learned from the master and if you have a bullet you fire it. Not sit on the horse until mid March. Such as Pletcher did.

22 Mar 2012 11:29 PM
josh

I thought the reason alpha changed it was in part of Ramon Dominguez's injury and when he would be back in time for the wood memorial. I guess that is an after thought now.

22 Mar 2012 11:49 PM
Coldfacts

Extract from a post made on April 4, 2011 on blog captioned “Man in Motion”

Steve,

I was enjoying the story about Graham Motion until I got the section where he said “And I have no desire to run against Uncle Mo”  Why do trainer make those types of comments that make them sound silly? He is deliberating options to secure graded earning for Toby’s Corner to run in a Derby where Uncle Mo will enter as favorite. By extension, he should have no desire to run against Uncle Mo in the Derby as well. Does he expect a different Uncle Mo on the 1st Saturday in May? If I were an owner thinking of using the services of Mr. Motion, his aforementioned statement would disqualify him. Trainers are required to prepare their charges to the best of their abilities and sent them to do battle. His statement suggests he has conceded victory to Uncle Mo and consequently accepted defeat before the race is even run. True professional do not adopt these attitudes and approaches. How many horses that Uncle Mo has defeated have dropped dead? Horses are not afraid of horses and anything can happen in a race. The 60-1 Shackleford almost won the FL Derby. Monarchos made what still remains one of the most devastating moves in the FL Derby where he passed his opponents like they were glued to the ground. He went to the Wood and got beat. Secretariat lost his effort in the Wood. Mr. Motion and all other like minded trainers should not start their charges in the Derby if they are afraid of particular of horses. There is no place for fear in thoroughbred racing and trainer must aspire to achieve what is perceived to be impossible. This is what distinguishes the great ones from the average. Mr. Motion has not distinguished himself with his utterly illogical statement.

I would like to think that Mr. Motion read my post as Toby’s Corner was entered in the 2011 Wood Memorial where he defeated the feared Uncle Mo. The above criticisms are applicable to Mr. Kiaran McLaughlin. Based on his policy of fear, is it likely that he will also win his first Derby? Alpha is an exceptionally well bred colt and adopting a policy of shipping all over the place to avoid top class competition does the talented colt a major disservice.

23 Mar 2012 12:15 AM
KY VET

NEVER.......in all my years, has there been a more overrated horse.Hail the great UNION RAGS! I mean really? The horses top beyer is 95! thats not much more than alw horses....why the superhorse hype? 2nd in one of the slowest juv. ever! people actually think hes better than UNCLE MO was! The hype on these blogs, is out of control....i mean im sure he is 20 hands tall and rippling muscles bigger than a clydesdale! 95 beyer! triple crown talk? uncle mo had a 108 beyer as a 2 yr old....i know a good horse when i see one, and i actually really like union rags.....but this hype is crazy!

23 Mar 2012 12:40 AM
cuban chef de race

betsy,your coment is not my bet .small? northern dancer,thunder gulch,go for gin,they won the derby because they had class,we need positive advice no personal ambition i will have unswer for your questions and that is my territory .we are in the starting gate.

23 Mar 2012 4:26 AM
cuban chef de race

broodmare sires with no shot gilded time,fly so free, valid appeal,siberian express,wild again,irish tower,dehere and manny ore ,this is mathematic and why i do admire Albert Einsten

23 Mar 2012 4:46 AM
cuban chef de race

creative cause ,good but no mother,gemologist,good but no good,hansen worst then his sire,i will have another,no class,take charge indy 20% of his sire,uniom rags,a good 2 year old and and a lost dream,now i see why only 10% of the players win.

23 Mar 2012 5:00 AM
Bloodline Bob

Steve, why isn't the Feb. 7th comments available to look at? I wanted to look at what I said?

23 Mar 2012 7:00 AM
PomDeTerre

Perhaps McLaughlin can convince a racing secretary somewhere at some obscure track to write in an overnight G1... not wanting to face the competition?  Why bother even prepping for the Derby?  This is laughable, particularly as this team knows they have to find a jock.  Ramon will not, imo, jump ship ala Castallano, and get off Hansen, espcially for a colt whose connections are playing avoidance games.

23 Mar 2012 7:05 AM
PomDeTerre

@ ky vet, yet again-and where did that 108 beyer for 2 yr old Mo get him Derby day?  uh...nowhere

23 Mar 2012 7:08 AM
Frank J.

Great article Steve, you mentioned Alpha being 13th in graded stakes earnings, is there a site that has the updated earnings list? I can't find one anywhere.

23 Mar 2012 8:15 AM
JerseyBoy

Steve:

I like your conclusion regarding Alpha-

” It all comes down to whether he’s good enough”.

Is he good enough? I do not know. But I never forget that Lammtarra won the 12-furlong  Epsom Derby in his second lifetime start. It was his first start of the year. He set a new track record in the process.

Worforce won the Epsom Derby in his third lifetime start. It was his second start of the year. He broke Lammtarra’s track record in the process.

The preparation of both horses had been interrupted by setbacks.

I firmly believe that if the horse has the talent, the trainer can use any method he wants to get him there. Prep races are just one option and they are overrated.

23 Mar 2012 9:05 AM
Pedigree Ann

Too many stakes races for the way horses are campaigned these days. It shows up in the older horse ranks especially, where handicap racing is nearly dead because of whiny trainers who sob if their champion gets 128 lbs. and ship out. But it is also a major problem on the Derby Trail.

Once upon a time, the Wood and California Derby were two weeks out from the Derby, the Santa Anita and Florida Derbies were 4 weeks out, and the Blue Grass was 10 days out. Horses often ran in two of theses races - SA and Cal. Derbies, SA Derby and Wood or Blue Grass, Florida Derby and Wood or Blue Grass. Now a horse will run in but one of these races. We don't need all of these preps anymore.

In 1962, when stakes horses raced every two-three weeks during a campaign, 1.89% of races were black-type races, and that included $1000-added races at fair meets. Today, the number is closer to 4.5%, NOT including the cheaper stakes races. Too many stakes races means all fields are diluted.

23 Mar 2012 9:20 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Ranagulzion Although I agree that Pletcher dosent sit on good 3yos, and tends to tighten the screws early in the year,I think Winstar has taken a dominant position in Gemologist's management much like Repole did with Uncle Mo in the Classic.Remember Replole had an uncoupled entry in the Classic,and had already made a deal for Uncle Mo's breeding rights.BTW Winstar has a runner in the Spiral this weekend and they probably have other Kentucky Derby candidates which I have not mentioned.

23 Mar 2012 9:44 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Steve thanks for the update on Alpha with the facts that you are aware of.This is speculation, but Im beginning to think that team Alpha might be thinking ahead after the Derby.They will run in the Derby with an easy race leading in to the race and if they dont win will skip the Preakness and try to win the Belmont.Has Darley or Goldolphin ever won a triple crown race?This is not to imply that they are taking the Derby lightly but Mclaughlin is a conservative trainer in the sense that he likes to conserve his trainees to not only win the next race but the one after it,in otherwords the connections want a well rested runner that if he wins the Derby will have a great chance to run the table in the triple crown, if not at least win one of the races in the series.

23 Mar 2012 9:53 AM
Turnbackthealarm

"Will so many changes hinder Alpha's chances in the Kentucky Derby?"

Since I don't think the horse knows about all the handwringing and plan changes, I don't think it matters.  He'll run wherever he's placed and has no idea about the drama.

23 Mar 2012 10:36 AM
DanC

I think the best of the Bernardini's is now gone from the TC trail (Algorithms); I do hope his colt with Zenyatta amounts to a good racehorse.

23 Mar 2012 11:13 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

To continue my posts on Alpha:I have him in the future bets(not too much bet yet) and I want to win my bets, or learn more about where he stands in relation to his peers, just as he relates to them in the running of the Kentucky Derby.I dont care about the Preakness until after the Derby is run as opposed to the connections of Alpha who have a well rested competitor and if he wins has a better chance to win the triple crown or if he runs well to win the next leg or the next two legs of the series.As a horseplayer Id like to see him run against the toughest field in the prep before the Derby, because IMO that helps the colt be prepared for the toughest race by far in his career,also because as a handicapper it helps me clarify my initial rankings of him and if I think maybe I was wrong about him and will bet differently in the actual race than I did in the futures.But nowadays the norm is to bring the colts into the race as lightly raced animals.All of this leads to more unpredictabilty in the race for the bettors as well as the humans involved in the preparation and racing of the colt.

23 Mar 2012 11:20 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

I think that the trainers know what they are doing when bringing these colts into the Derby lightly raced.This ties into the way horses are bred in the US and have been for a decade or probably more.The old way just dosent work anymore but then you have a trainer such as Harrington still using the old school method in his preparation of Creative Cause.

23 Mar 2012 11:37 AM
It aint easy being good!

I agree with alot of you is stop thinking about other horses if I think my horse is the best out there I will run him anytime anywhere. Like running curlin on synthetic tracks or turf or ship him around the world to crush any horse on the planet. Alpha is a good horse I personally think that the owners have recognized that all the bernadinis this year have broken down so they want to handle him carefully. Alpha is still the beast of the east having said that all my money is on Street life. He is just stepping up in class and wearing out the competition he reminds of myself when I play mike tysons punch out start off with don flamenco, taking out the sandman and working my way to the title versus mike tyson aka union rags! STREET LIFE!

23 Mar 2012 11:40 AM
Karen in Texas

Catchy title, Steve! Are we seeing an upswing in owners directing the maneuvers of their respective horses this year? Mr. Sandford, Godolphin; possibly Winstar and Dr. Hansen seem to be actively engaged in plotting the routes to Churchill this spring. At first I thought Hansen's move from the Wood to the Bluegrass was in order to insure enough time for Dominguez to recover completely from his injury, but now I wonder if that is the case.

Frank J.----There is an earnings list toward the bottom of this linked page.

www.horseracingnation.com

23 Mar 2012 12:13 PM
Steve Haskin

Bloodline Bob, I dont see a column listed for Feb. 7. Did I write one?

Turnbackthealarm, I said the same thing in the column.

Jersey Boy, comparing European and American horses/racing is apples and oranges. Did you ever watch a workout in Europe? It's usually 10 or 12 furlongs and is race simulated with several horses involved.

23 Mar 2012 1:16 PM
Carlos in Cali

Their goal is to win the Ky Derby without having to run his "A" race in a prep where he'll be making his 1st start off a 2-month respite.Let's not forget Alpha is probably the only high-profile horse still left on the TC Trail who started "prepping" in early January. Hindsight tells me they bypassed the Gotham so he won't peak too soon.Although the going back-and-forth is most likely due to the fact that they probably need a top 3 finish without emptying the gas tank,the Wood Memorial makes the most sense because he loves  the New York tracks. McLaughlin knows how to prepare a horse for battle..

"Alpha reminds me of Stay Thirsty.He's rather smallish and will probably prefer the NY climate/tracks.I can see him clean house out there leading up to the Derby"

Carlos in Cali 25 Jan 2012 6:34 PM

23 Mar 2012 1:33 PM
Joseph

Maybe Alpha's connections realize he is just not that fast a horse and our looking for the easier spot.

23 Mar 2012 2:05 PM
GoldenGiven

Chief Piccawinna, Bernardini won the Preakness '06 from the Darley Stable. It seems just like yesterday that Empire Maker won the Fla Derby and then the Wood - yet those days are long gone. Off Topic, has Halfbridled dropped anything noteworthy?

23 Mar 2012 2:32 PM
tjconway

I still believe Alpha has the most upside right now. If the race were today, my superfecta would be:

1) Alpha

2) Gemologist

3) Union Rags

4) Our Entourage

Still trying to decide who's better Alpha or Gemologist

23 Mar 2012 5:57 PM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

GoldenGiven Ok Bernardini is their only triple crown victory thank you for the reminder.Empire Maker is Judmonte Farms.

23 Mar 2012 6:05 PM
opsherr

You kind of said it all, Mr. Haskin. There really isn't much to add about Alpha and his connections. Just have the horse show up in May. I do have to comment about Hansen's change of plans. I never believed he would   run in the Wood. I think his connections were blowing smoke and they did a damn fine job of it.

Can't wait for next weeks Derby Dozen. Will save my 'to the point' comments for then.

23 Mar 2012 9:49 PM
Draynay

I have seen a lot of 3 year old horses before the Derby and it has been a long time since I have seen a monster like Union Rags.  He is a force of nature.  I like Mark V. in the Louisiana and I expect a big upset in the Wood.

23 Mar 2012 10:39 PM
Bloodline Bob

Steve, I made only one comment on Feb. 7, 2012 @ 11:44 p.m. but now I do not know which date the column is under. I see your 1-31-12 + 2-14-12 columns but not the 2-7-12 column. Oh well, I wrote some horses on there and now I can't remember who they were. Thanks anyway. Have a good Derby.

24 Mar 2012 12:53 AM
Bloodline Bob

Steve, I found it under your Feb.6th Derby Dozen. My 10 horses include an entry in the Sunland Derby{NO SPIN}. I also have NEWS PENDING + MARK VALESKI in my picks. Is your Derby Dozen column now your Derby Trail column or do you have more than 1 column here, Confused Bloodline Bob?

24 Mar 2012 1:19 AM
myntjulius

It is disappointing to see such poor management and gamesmanship trying to go for one race.  Trying to cherry pick one safe prep race to squeeze your horse into the Derby is disheartening.

I miss the days when racehorses became legends because they dominated their opponents through a long and contentious career.  It is one of the things that hurts the industry is that there is are no longer any standout performers to follow and no long term names to identify with.  Too many shoot for the one big win and then off to stud.  The interest will start to return to racing when a true thoroughbred superstar wins 3 big races as a 2 year old, 4 major prep races as a 3 year old, takes the triple crown and wins the Breeders Cup Classic!!  Then march him off to the stud farm as a legend.

24 Mar 2012 2:00 PM
Don from PA/DE

TJ: No question in my mind, "Gemologist", Wood will be the answer, the big question is whether "Gem" will be able to defeat Union Rags and Creative Cause, is all in KD...I like Alpha, but he will be no match for Gemologist, this guy is a winner x 5...Don

24 Mar 2012 7:33 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, this isn't about Alpha but about your column on Riva Ridge with comments from Penny Chenery. I just loved it. A joy from beginning to end and I can fully understand why Penny loved R.R. so much. What a great horse he was. I knew he had saved her farm before Secretariat but I didn't know much else. Now I do.

25 Mar 2012 12:31 AM
Giddyup

I am sure Steve remembers well the glory days of the sport when horse owners use to relish the chance to race against the top rivals instead of looking for the "easy route". Is it any wonder the industry is failing to attract new fans at the rate other sports are?

25 Mar 2012 10:49 AM
JerseyBoy

Steve, I get your point about the European training methods, but one point I see overlooked in the Alpha comments is the fact that Alpha is not a Grade 1 winner. The connections can kill two birds with one stone by moving to the Grade 1 Wood.

By the way, I am a bit of an Anglophile. I have a degree from the University of London.

25 Mar 2012 12:33 PM
robinm

I can't decide if owners/trainers are ducking other horses or looking for the best spot for their colts for other reasons. For sure, the graded earnings aspect has a big impact on where a horse runs.  However, in the case of Hansen, with plenty of graded earnings, I have no firm belief as to the reason for the change in plans.  I don't think he's ducking anyone, so maybe it really is as simple as waiting for his jockey to heal up. Now Alpha is really a puzzle.  He doesn't have an unblemished record to protect, so from that standpoint, he doesn't have to look for an easy spot.  I don't think the Bernardini's are any more vulnerable to injury than any other bloodline, so I don't think they are babying him because of his pedigree, though the loss of Out of Bounds may have them a little gun shy.  

I'm still of the opinion that horses get more out of racing than from workouts and firmly believe that both horses and fans would benefit from more frequent racing of the top candidates.  The horses get more fit and fans have more opportunities to form attachments which helps keep interest high.

25 Mar 2012 2:03 PM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Hey Bloodline Bob I like your screename and as such that it is,I have a question for you.I use the Brisnet PP,s the same ones that Jason And Tom use to make their picks on "That Handicapping Show" my question is I looked at Creative Cause in the Brisnet PP's and his dams average winning distance is less than 7 furlongs eventhough his sire Giants Causeway AWD is over 8 furlongs as a sire.Bloodline Bob give me your take on Creative Cause's breeding.Thanx in advance.

25 Mar 2012 6:13 PM
Your Only Friend

"Daddy Nose Best" look pretty good in the Sunland Derby.....my question .....$800,000 only 8 horses ran.....guess it's West Coast Racing....6-8 horses is complete field.

25 Mar 2012 9:03 PM
Mike Relva

BETSY

Connections have the right to do what's best for their horse regarding which race they decide.

Regarding his size, Smarty Jones and MTB weren't exactly huge, they did ok.

25 Mar 2012 10:31 PM
Fran Loszynski

I think it will be better for Hansen in the Bluegrass Stakes. Can't wait for the Kentucky Derby when we all look for that "big" white horse! I don't think we've "tapped" into his real skill yet. Watching him he is testing the waters. He runs like he is an entity by himself almost like the eyes of Barbaro are upon us.

26 Mar 2012 9:49 AM
Pedigree Ann

I fear that Godolphin is too fixated on making Alpha an attractive stallion prospect to see what their 'strategy' is doing to his racing career. They are looking for the easiest highly graded race they can find, so that he will be a G1 (or G2) winner, no matter what happens thereafter. Yet another consequence of the breeding industry's deathgrip on racing.

26 Mar 2012 9:58 AM
duchess

I think what we are seeing with Hansen is a bit of a disagreement between owner and trainer. The owner wanted his colt to run at "home" in the Spiral while the trainer wanted to run him in a  more prestigious race for a lot more money in the Wood Memorial. I think that the Bluegrass is a compromise between the two. Hansen will not be running at "home" but still an easy drive from home for family and friends of the owner - and in a grade I for more money and prestige than the Spiral.

I cannot blame the owner for wanting his colt to run close to home (it cannot be easy for a doctor or working people in general to drop everything to travel around to follow a horse) and I certainly cannot blame the trainer for wanting a bigger paycheck and a chance to advertise that he trained a multiple grade I winner.

My husband and I went to watch the Spiral on Saturday. I liked Went the Day Well. He looks like a very green colt who needs more races to really "get it" on the track, but I think he looks to be one who (if he stays sound) will have a pretty solid career. He might very well be too green for the Triple Crown races, but I will look for him to come along nicely in the summer. And if I bred horses, I would pay any amount of money for his dam - by Tiznow and tale female to the dam of Somethingroyal. If you look at his tail female line you will see solid classic Meadow Stud breeding with wonderful classy as anything mares bred to best available stallions from generation to generation.

We had never been to Turfway before. While it lacks the beauty and charm of Santa Anita or Keeneland (it is a functional track, sort of like the old DRC), the employees were very kind and helpful and friendly and when we got there the place was so clean you could almost eat off the floor (including the bathrooms). All in all it was a very positive experience (not to mention very affordable) and we will gladly go back for Spiral day next year if our work schedules allow it.

26 Mar 2012 11:47 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Get well soon Bob and make a full recovery !!!!  I can't even imagine the game without Bob Baffert. Great personality and quite a horseman.

26 Mar 2012 2:05 PM
Splits of 12

First off, I'd like to say thanks Steve, for your entertaining insight into the Kentucky Derby trail. Alpha is one I've never considered as a serious contender. The reason being is I just never saw him as a threat to Union Rags. Even after the Juvenile loss to Hansen, the Rags has been and will always be my horse to not only win the Derby but the ever elusive Triple Crown, this season. Another horse who I am intrigued in is Steve Margolis', Cigar Street. By Street Sense out of a Deputy Minister Mare who's grand dam is Solar Slew, dam of the mighty Cigar. Hence the name Cigar Street. Any horse who breaks their maiden by 13 and 3/4 lengths merits consideration. I love the breeding, and even if he doesn't make the Derby he'll be running in some nice races later in the year. But my gut tells me this horse is going to explode on the scene, has the look of something special.  We'll see.

26 Mar 2012 4:32 PM
Firehorse21

Steve great article. Im kind of confused with what Alpha's connections are wanting for the horse. For me as a handicapper i see that their plans are not set and  they seem not confident in their horse. Im mean whats the deal to me it seems like they think their horse cant handle it. I mean he hasnt faced very good fields yet and the Wood would be his biggest challenge yet. So im wondering is he as good as everyone thinks because his handlers cant make a decision.

27 Mar 2012 8:45 PM
bigred

Steve, Please do not discount prospective's tbderby win. Although he beat a relatively nondescript field his time was excellent. His 143 2/5 was the 2nd fastest in the history of the race only to Street Sense. And the way he battled and pulled away from golden ticket in th last 100 yds. stamps his class. Golden ticket also had the benefit of a once in a lifetime dream trip. Don't know if any malibu moons have made any noise in the derby but i can tell you he will be a nice overlay in the wood. If Javier Contreras decides to stay in the U.S. he will be a leading rider, no doubt!

27 Mar 2012 9:07 PM
Slew

Sorry, I just have a thing for Bernardini foals, and Alpha is last colt standing since the others were sidelined.

However, I do believe he's a Stay Thirsty type, who can stay all day, but may not break any track records.  I just feel the competition is fierce this year, with a lot more speed than Alpha has....but it may be a grinder who surprises us all.

28 Mar 2012 8:07 PM
plodderman

"I have seen a lot of 3 year old horses before the Derby and it has been a long time since I have seen a monster like Union Rags.  He is a force of nature.  I like Mark V. in the Louisiana and I expect a big upset in the Wood."

Every year the same thing..... You pick the biggest earner with the best beyer and ride him until he bucks you..... Which is always on Derby Day......LOOK!!!!! Here comes Mark V now. They sent the search crew out and they found him too......Yes, there will be an upset in the Wood. Alpha is most likely a little short and may get topped. As for the Derby, I'm giving huge odds that Alpha beats the Rag of a horse. Hansen too. Both GUARANTEED not to hit the superfecta. FOR THE RECORD. Union Rags couldn't go 1 1/4 miles on the firsr Saturday in may, unless he is vanned in from that distance on race day. Alpha. Handicapping lesson: $250/hr.... nay, $350. Should we go back in time to Uncle Schmoe. Who never beat anyone and still hasn't..... Thank God, people with this mentality help support my way of life.

04 Apr 2012 6:05 PM

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