Godolphin Racing's Alpha turned in a front-running display in the slop at Saratoga on Saturday in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy over 1 1/8 miles. Sent to the lead by Ramon Dominguez from post 1, Alpha set a pedestrian pace of :24 2/5; :49 1/5 and 1:14. Challenged around the far turn and in the stretch, Alpha maintained his supremacy throughout and expanded his lead to two lengths at the line. The 9-5 favorite returned $5.60, $3.70 and $3.20 after completing the distance in 1:50 2/5.
"[Ramon and I] both thought about [going to the lead] and talked about it," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We both thought the same. In the [Grade 1] Wood Memorial, he didn't break well and then he got smashed going into the first turn, and we thought he would be forwardly placed. Here, when you're in the one-hole, you have to go. Ramon thought the same way I did and said, 'If he breaks well, I'm going.' I said, 'I'm all for that.' He wasn't going to rush him off his feet, but he wanted to be on the lead. So it was a great call, and it all worked out.
"Into the first turn, I was happy. If he was there, I knew he was handling [the track] well. I felt like he should handle it. He's got a very small, narrow foot, so he should handle it with his pedigree and his foot size. We were very happy."
Neck 'n Neck, the 7-2 second choice, enjoyed an outside stalking trip in third to the stretch, advanced to within a half-length of the winner at the eighth pole, but simply wasn't good enough. He finished two lengths clear of co-third choice Liaison, who had to rally from seventh after a slow beginning.
Completing the Jim Dandy order of finish were Teeth of the Dog, My Adonis, Atigun, Fast Falcon, and Prospective.
A debut winner by six lengths at Saratoga last September, Alpha was subsequently second in the Grade 1 Champagne, but was fractious in the gate before the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and finished 11th of 13.
An easy winner of the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers during the Aqueduct inner dirt meet, Alpha just missed by a neck to Gemologist after early trouble in the Wood Memorial on April 7. He was last seen under colors in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, where he was never a factor at any point when finishing 12th in the field of 20. Alpha, whose record now stands at 8-4-2-0, $860,000, was an intended starter in the Grade 1 Belmont, but was withdrawn from consideration after spiking a fever while preparing for the 1 1/2-mile classic.
"He's really done very well since the Belmont incident with the temperature, so we knew he was ready. He's been training great," McLaughlin said.
Alpha, a son of champion and 2006 Jim Dandy winner Bernardini, will attempt to emulate his sire again by taking the Grade 1 Travers on August 25.
"We'll most likely go in the Travers now," McLaughlin said. "We'll speak to [Godolphin racing manager] Simon Crisford, and we'll go over it, but this was the plan all the time, to run in this and back in the Travers. Hopefully, everything goes well for the next four weeks."
Bred in Kentucky by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation, Alpha was produced by the stakes-winning Nijinsky II mare Munnaya. She's also the dam of stakes winner Mystic Melody, multiple Grade 2-placed Lavender Sky, and the stakes-placed Numaany and Yaya.
Alpha's second dam was Group 3 winner Hiaam, and his third dam was Canadian champion and Broodmare of the Year Kamar. She produced Canadian champion Key to the Moon and Grade 1 winners Gorgeous and Seaside Attraction.
Kamar's other descendants include U.S. champions Fantastic Light and Golden Attraction, French highweight Desert Lord, and Grade 1 winners Swift Temper, Cape Town and Flashing.