Godolphin Racing's Alpha turned in his final serious work for the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 17, covering a half-mile over the main track in :48.91. Fellow contender Fast Falcon also breezed the same morning.
"He worked well," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of Alpha, a 3-year-old son of Bernardini . "I had him galloping out in 1:01 and 4/5. Officially I think they said 1:02 and 1/5, but he went great and all systems are 'go.' Saturday is normally the day we work, but last week we worked Thursday because of weather and there's chance of rain again today. The track had some moisture in it, but he handled it well."
The work, under exercise rider Rob Massey, was Alpha's second since winning the July 28 Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga. Last week, the bay breezed four furlongs in :48.33 over the main track for the 1 1/4-mile Travers, which is Aug. 25. Though Alpha's major preparations are now complete, McLaughlin said he is unlikely to focus much on the rest of the field.
"I paid attention to Paynter not showing up, that was important for us," McLaughlin said, referring to the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner who missed the Travers after spiking a fever. "Otherwise, I know the horses that are coming, looks like an eight- to 10-horse field and we just have to wait and see how we draw. We're doing well and we'll get there ourselves. I don't worry too much about everybody else."
Expected for the Travers in addition to Alpha are Atigun, Five Sixteen, Hansen, Liaison , Neck 'n Neck, Nonios, Stealcase, Street Life, and likely Fast Falcon.
Fast Falcon, owned by Richard Pell, worked five furlongs in 1:00.54 over the main track, after which Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said it was very likely the colt would be entered in the "Midsummer Derby."
"He worked super and galloped out strong," Zito said. "I just want to call Richard and make sure we're on the same page, but I'm fine with it. He's going to be a long shot, which I like."
The 3-year-old son of Awesome Again was most recently seventh over a sloppy track in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy. He finished second behind Teeth of the Dog at Belmont Park in both the June 30 Dwyer (gr. II) and the Easy Goer overnight stakes June 9.
"It was a slow pace, and I don't think he liked it," said Zito about the disappointing Jim Dandy performance. "He wasn't himself. This is what makes an interesting story about a long shot. That's what I'm here to do."
Zito has run 26 horses in the Travers, winning the race in 2004 with Birdstone , finishing second five times, and third thrice.
Jockey Junior Alvarado worked Fast Falcon and will ride in the Travers, according to Zito.
Meanwhile, A. Stevens Miles Jr.'s Neck 'n Neck is expected to turn in his final breeze for the Travers Aug. 19 or 20, according to trainer Ian Wilkes.
"We're going to work him Sunday or Monday," said Wilkes. "I'm leaning more towards Monday, but we have to keep an eye on the weather."
The Flower Alley colt was beaten two lengths by Alpha in the Jim Dandy last month and is expected to face many of the same horses in next week's Travers. For the moment, Wilkes isn't worrying too much about his competition.
"I just need to get one spot better, don't I?" he asked rhetorically outside his Clare Court barn.
"I can't worry about the other horses right now," he added. "We've got eight days, we've got another work to get through, and I've got to just worry about him."
Neck 'n Neck came out of the Jim Dandy well and is, according to his trainer, in good shape heading toward the Travers. "He's fine. No problems," said Wilkes. "His works have been good and I'm very pleased with him."