South Florida-based Alpha, easy winner of the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Feb. 4, is now being considered probable for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) April 1, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed today.
“The chances are very good that we’re coming that way,” McLaughlin told officials at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. “Simon Crisford (racing manager for owner Godolphin Racing) is the one who makes these decisions, and we had talked (March 19) and we agreed that Fair Grounds is a good spot.
"We will stay here in Florida and work this last time, make sure all is well for everybody going into the Florida Derby (gr. I), and then we’ll enter at the Fair Grounds, most likely.”
The connections had been leaning toward the Resorts World New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 7 at Aqueduct and also considered the Florida Derby (gr. I) March 31 at Gulfstream Park, but both of those races will likely be stacked with several of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Alpha (Bernardini —Munnaya, by Nijinsky II) will work at McLaughlin’s Palm Meadows Training Center base in Florida March 24 or March 25 and fly to New Orleans March 28, the Wednesday prior to the race.
“A two-hour flight from West Palm (Beach) to New Orleans is almost as easy as vanning from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a million dollars, a grade II, and we like the timing of it, being five weeks to the (Kentucky) Derby, or one day short of five weeks.”
McLaughlin said he would have had a tougher time lining up one of his preferred riders for either of the grade I races, but for the Louisiana Derby he was able to secure the services of Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey.