Alpha visited the track at Churchill Downs for the first time this year on Tuesday morning when he galloped approximately 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Rob Massey.
The Wood Memorial runner-up trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was one of the later arrivals for the Kentucky Derby. He stayed at McLaughlin's home base at Belmont Park until Monday afternoon, when he was flown to Louisville. The colt arrived at Churchill Downs at 6:15 p.m. (EDT).
This is Alpha's second trip to Churchill Downs. After acting up badly in the gate of Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 5, he finished 11th, about 20 lengths behind Hansen.
"He shipped in well and all systems are go," McLaughlin said. "He looked like he liked the track a little better today than on Breeders' Cup day, so I was happy about that."
Since the Breeders' Cup, Alpha has raced three times at Aqueduct in New York, winning the Count Fleet and the Grade 3 Withers and finishing second by a neck to Gemologist in the Wood. McLaughlin said Alpha looks the same but is a different horse than the youngster that acted badly in the Breeders' Cup.
"He's been great at the gate ever since," McLaughlin said. "We've schooled him often and he hasn't done anything wrong in the gate in the morning or the afternoon. He's matured some, but he's still kind of a light-framed horse. He's great mentally. Great pedigree. Wants the mile and a quarter."
Alpha and jockey Ramon Dominguez had a troubled trip in the Wood and the colt sustained some cuts on his left foreleg that became infected and temporarily interrupted his training after the race. The bay breezed five furlongs in :59 2/5 Saturday at Belmont Park and McLaughlin said he is ready for the Derby.
"He's certainly battle-tested," McLaughlin said. "It was a very rough first turn for him. Ramon had to check him hard and that is why we had the cut on the shin, which set us back a day or two in New York.
"We walked him seven days instead of five days, but he's been right on his schedule. We two-minute-licked him a mile on (April 22), instead of working him a half on Saturday and he was feeling great.
"I don't think we're behind. Then we came back with that great five-eighths work Saturday on the Belmont training track. He's fit and he's doing great."
McLaughlin said that Alpha's jockey would be named Wednesday when entries are taken. The Alpha team has held off with the announcement of a jockey to replace Dominguez, who opted to ride Hansen.
"Rajiv Maragh worked him and he's the most likely rider, but we just wanted to make sure there weren't any jockeys that came open today or tomorrow," McLaughlin said.
Since Maragh is available and wasn't likely to pick up another mount this week, McLaughlin said there no pressure to decide on a rider. He said that Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, will make the decision.
"There is no sense in naming a rider today or yesterday," McLaughlin said. "We have to do it tomorrow, so we'll do it tomorrow."
McLaughlin said Alpha fits in this talented Derby field.
Yes, McLaughlin has a preferred post position in the 20-horse field.
"Number 10 would be my favorite because he goes in last," McLaughlin said.
In other Kentucky Derby news:
My Adonis moved up to 21st on the graded earnings list among those who have expressed interest in entering the Kentucky Derby with Tuesday's defection of Mark Valeski. With that announcement, Monmouth Park-based trainer Kelly Breen was loading the Grade 3 Gotham runner-up onto a van as of noon and expected to have My Adonis at Churchill Downs by 7 a.m. Wednesday.
"We'll see what happens," co-owner Lori Hall said. "Apparently it's easier to ship to Pimlico from Churchill anyway so if we don't get in we'll van to Baltimore for the prep race there. We know we're running somewhere Saturday."
Pimlico's $75,000 Canonero II for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles could be used as a springboard to either of the other Triple Crown races, the $1 million Preakness two weeks later or the $1 million Belmont Stakes five weeks later.
The Kentucky Derby has an "Also-Eligible" list this year, allowing up to four horses to enter and perhaps make the field should any scratches be announced between entries and 9 a.m. Friday.
Regular jockey Elvis Trujillo will be named to ride in what would be his first Kentucky Derby.
Hall said My Adonis returned to the track this morning for light training, two days after a five-furlong work at Monmouth in 1:01 3/5.