Godolphin Racing’s highly-regarded Alpha rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup by comfortably winning the $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes (VIDEO) Jan. 7 at Aqueduct in his 3-year-old debut.
Alpha tracked the leaders perfectly in third under Ramon Dominguez, dueled briefly with pacesetter Il Villano at the top of the lane, and then methodically inched clear for a 2 1/2–length score. Sent off as the 4-5 choice in a field of seven, the son of Bernardini earned his first stakes victory. He covered one mile and 70 yards on the fast inner track in 1:42.83.
Kiaran McLaughlin trains Alpha, who was bred in Kentucky by Darley and is out of the Nijinsky II mare Munnaya.
“Alpha was just a great win," said McLaughlin, who also sent out 3-year-old filly Captivating Lass to win the $100,000 Busanda Stakes earlier on the card. "We’ll probably leave him (in New York), although Captivating Lass I’m not sure. We’ll probably go to the Withers (gr. III, Feb. 4) and on to the Wood (Memorial, gr. I, April 7) with Alpha. For sure we’ll have to talk to the Godolphin people, but that’s what we’ll look at for right now.”
Alpha was entering off an 11th-place finish in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, one start after finishing runner-up to Union Rags in the Champagne (gr. I). He broke his maiden by six lengths in his debut last summer at Saratoga.
Alpha upped his earnings to $180,000.
"We were three-wide throughout the whole race; we were tracking the leaders," Dominguez said. "They went pretty slow. Two sprinters were in the front, and I wasn’t overly concerned about having him any closer, but because of the lack of pace his move was kind of gradual. We were just grinding.
"Turning for home, he responded every time I asked him. He galloped out so strong that I had to get an outrider to pull him up. You always have to go just by what you have seen, but judging by today he should be able to handle more distance.”
Stephanoatsee rallied in deep stretch to get up for second under Junior Alvarado, a neck in front of Il Villano, who set early fractions of :24.48, :49.06, and 1:13.91 for jockey Jose Flores.
Alpha paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10.
In the Busanda, Captivating Lass made a steady run to defeat Sweet Seventeen, the odds-on favorite, by a neck. Content to track the clear pacesetter in second behind fractions of :24.80 and :49.69, Captivating Lass came under a drive approaching three-quarters in 1:14.36, and made up a two-length deficit in the final furlong to get up nearing the post.
“She seems like a grinder and it took awhile to get her going,” said winning jockey Mike Luzzi. “She’s a big, rangy thing, by A.P. Indy, and it took the whole stretch to get her going, but she responded and galloped out nice. I was impressed."
The Busanda was the second start in a stakes and third overall for Captivating Lass, a Darley Stable representative who broke her maiden in front-running fashion at Parx Racing Oct. 1 and was a troubled seventh in the Demoiselle (gr. II) on the main track at Aqueduct Nov. 26.
Captivating Lass ran the one-mile, 70-yard race in 1:43.74. The Busanda victory, worth $60,000, lifted Captivating Lass’ earnings to $101,600. She paid $5.80 to win as the 9-5 second choice.