Saratoga Day 8, 7/28/12
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Like his father, Alpha has shown an affinity for Saratoga Race Course.
Bernardini swept the Jim Dandy and Travers in 2006 on the way to the 3-year-old male championship. The Eclipse Award appears to be unattainable by any of the colts still in training, but Alpha set himself up nicely to achieve his sire's Saratoga double today when he won the Grade II Jim Dandy by two lengths over Neck 'n Neck in front of 24,548.
After finishing up the track in the Kentucky Derby, Godolphin Racing's Alpha missed the Belmont Stakes when a fever temporarily waylaid his training, but he looks like a fresh horse for the second half of the season and benefitted from a very easy lead. He'll point toward the Aug. 25 Travers.
"He really has done very well since the Belmont incident, with his temperature," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We knew he was ready and training great, and it just all worked out today."
It worked out especially well out of the gate and into the first turn, as Alpha broke from the No. 1 post and coasted uncontested through six furlongs in 1:14.03. Neck 'n Neck made a move at Alpha, but he had plenty in reserve to win in 1:50.47 under Ramon Dominguez.
"He was superb all the way around there," Dominguez said. "Turning for home when I shook him up, he just took off for me. It’s an indication he’ll handle farther, and I love the way he was handling himself prior to and after the race."
"He wasn't going to rush him off his feet," McLaughlin said. "But he wanted to be on the lead, so it was a great call and it all worked."
"When it's $600,000, we're trying to win. But had he had trouble finishing second or third closing or something, then you'd say it was a good prep, but we were trying to win, and, hopefully, everything goes well for the next four weeks."
The Jim Dandy win made Alpha 2-for-2 at Saratoga. He broke his maiden by six lengths in his career debut on closing weekend last year.
In the Grade I $600,000 Diana, trainer Jimmy Toner kept it all in the family.
Winter Memories won for him with a dominant stretch run to follow in her dam's footsteps. Toner also saddled her dam, Memories of Silver, in a victorious Diana back in 1998.
Winter Memories was kept patiently a half-length to a length behind the leading pair of Tapitsfly and Law of The Range, setting a modest pace, until the final turn. She fired around to the outside of those two, then began to pull away entering the stretch.
“There was no pace. I think we were closer due to the fact of the way the race was shaping up,” Toner said. “I just left it in Javi's hands and said, 'Look, just do what you want to do, but I wouldn't let her get too far away from us today.'”
Irish-bred Dream Peace also rallied through the stretch to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Winter Memories and 3 1/4 ahead of third-place Zagora.
Zagora, trained by Mechanicville native Chad Brown, was attempting to become the seventh back-to-back winner and eighth two-time winner. Like Zagora, who came to Brown's barn after beginning her career in France, Dream Peace will be transferred to Brown's barn as she continues her North American campaign.
“It was her first time [running] since May, so she probably needed the race,” he said. “She’s staying in America now [with Chad Brown], so hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a Grade 1 win for her. We’re very happy though, she ran a very good race.”