Alpha Continues On The Road To Louisville
Count Fleet Winner Takes Aim At Withers
Assistant trainer Artie Magnuson reported that “everything is great in Barn 11” following Redding Colliery’s victory in last Saturday’s $75,000 Evening Attire Stakes, one of a trio of victories on Jan. 28 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“That was really special,” said Magnuson of Redding Colliery, who was making only his second start in 14 months. “I say this all the time, but we’re lucky to have this kind up here, we really are. It looks like the Mar. 17 Excelsior [Grade 3, $150,000] is the next logical step, so we’re going to head that way for now.”
Magnuson added that Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet Stakes on Jan. 7, is prepping for Saturday’s (Feb. 4) Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes.
The 1 1/16-mile Withers is the next step in the NYRA series for Classic-minded three-year-olds, and is followed by the Grade 2, $400,000 Gotham Stakes on Mar. 3 and the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial on Apr. 7.
“The thought is [to run in] all of them,” said Magnuson. “We could skip one if we want, but the thought is to just do all four. The Kentucky Derby is very important, but this series is very important. These aren’t preps, these are important races, so we’re treating them that way. We take the Withers very seriously, and the Gotham. We’ve won a stake and that’s nice, and this is graded, that’s important, everything’s very important. Alpha needs to show up, needs to run, but we couldn’t be happier with him now.”
At age two, the son of Bernardini was a six-length maiden winner at Saratoga Race Course, finished second to Union Rags in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and concluded 2011 with an 11thplace finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after acting up in the gate.
“He stood in the gate today, between two horses, very well,” said Magnuson of the Godolphin Stable color-bearer. “It’s something we will continue to do.”
Among those also pointing to Saturday’s Withers Stakes is Repole Stable’s How Do I Win, who breezed a half-mile in 49.04 Sunday morning over Belmont Park’s training track. Most recently fourth behind Alpha in the Count Fleet on Jan. 7, the gray son of Corinthian is 2-0-1 from six starts, having close out his two-yearold campaign with a victory in a maiden claiming race and a starter allowance.
“He’s been kind of inconsistent in the afternoons, as you can tell from the past performances, but when he puts everything together I think he’ll live up to expectations,” said trainer Todd Pletcher via telephone. “In his last race, the jockey took too much hold of him, and he’s more of a freerunning horse.”
Pletcher will be going for his second training victory in the 1 1/16- mile Withers, having won the 2008 edition with another gray, Harlem Rocker.
‘Disco’ fever in the Toboggan?
Joseph Dirico’s Dr. Disco breezed four furlongs over the Belmont Park training track on Sunday morning, Jan. 29, under exercise rider Jimmy Pantina, completing his final work for Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan Handicap in 50.06.
“It was good,” said trainer Bruce Brown. “He breezed today, so he’ll work tomorrow and then gallop into the race. I might, at some point, stand him in the gate, but he’s pretty good.”
A New York-bred son of Disco Rico, the four-year-old exits a six-furlong, inner-track optional claiming victory on Jan. 2 and will make his graded stakes debut in the Toboggan. After coming up a length short to General Maximus in the Posse Hudson on New York Showcase Day at Belmont, Dr. Disco came back to win the six-furlong Vodka overnight stakes on the inner track Dec. 4, 2011. Five of the colt’s six career victories have come over the inner track.
“He’s really surprised me all along,” admitted Brown. “He never, ever has shown me much in the morning. I was surprised when he ran good early on, and even now, breezing, he does just enough. He never does too much in the morning. This has all been a surprise. He’s really kind of moved forward as he’s gotten older and he’s just turned four now.”
Fast track to Correction
Nicole H was another completing her preparations for next weekend’s stakes races, breezing an easy halfmile over the training track in 50.17 as she points for the $100,000, sixfurlong Correction Stakes.
“I liked what I saw,” said Mike Hushion, who trains the mare for Gem, Inc. “She’s on track for next weekend.”
A five-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, Nicole H exits a repeat victory in the Interborough Stakes over the inner track on Jan. 1. Last winter, Nicole H strung together three victories at the Big A, starting with the Garland of Roses Handicap in December 2010, followed by the Interborough and the 2011 running of the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap on the main track Apr. 16.
Nicole H has won four of her last five, with her sole defeat being a nose loss to It’s Me Mom in the Robert O’Malley in October at Suffolk Downs. Since the O’Malley, It’s Me Mom has added three victories, including a 6 3/4-length runaway score in last Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park.
“We thought we were going to Suffolk for a soft spot,” said Hushion. “Think again.”
Love and Pride dominates stakes
Love and Pride took control at the start and never looked back in the $75,000 Affectionately Stakes for fillies and mares, running away to a 7 1/2-length victory over Bahia Beach last Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Leaving from post position 1, Love and Pride quickly secured the lead in the opening strides and was taken in hand by jockey Cornelio Velasquez to set fractions of 24.92, 49.41, and 1:13.54. Bahia Beach moved up to challenge the leader at the quarter pole, but Love and Pride rebuffed that bid and extended her advantage in the stretch.
Off as the 4-5 favorite, Love and Pride paid $3.90 and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.90.
“I wasn’t concerned when the other fillies came to her on the turn,” said Velasquez. “She had run the half in [49.41] so I still had plenty of horse left when I asked her. She’s a nice filly.”
The Affectionately was the second stakes win for Love and Pride, a Green Hills Farm color-bearer who took the Proud Spell overnight stakes at Saratoga Race Course in August. Following a fifth in the Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing in October, she finished third in three consecutive races: the Real Prize overnight stakes in October at Belmont Park, the Grade 1 Gazelle Stakes on the Aqueduct main track in November, and the Let Me Linger overnight stakes on the inner track in December.
“She had run well against Awesome Feather [in the Gazelle]; this was an easier spot for her,” noted Velasquez.
Katy Now, a speedy stablemate to Love and Pride, was scratched out of the Affectionately, and Michael Mc- Carthy, assistant to triumphant trainer Todd Pletcher, said the defection proved beneficial for the winner.
“We had the idea of going to the lead, and obviously with the scratch of Katy Now she was the controlling speed,” said McCarthy. “We were able to get away with solid fractions, 49 and change, a big difference from her previous races. It looks like she could be promising. It kind of depends on what mood she’s in when she comes over here. She’s not difficult, but soft fractions make a big difference for her.”
McCarthy said Love and Pride will remain in New York and likely will make her next start in an innertrack stakes. The next race on the Aqueduct stakes schedule for fillies and mares is the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap on the Mar. 3 undercard for the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham.
The Affectionately was worth $45,000 to Love and Pride, a fouryear old daughter of A.P. Indy and Ile de France. Her record stands at 4-0-4 from nine starts with $208,760 in earnings.
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