By Jon Forbes | 09/03/2011 05:08 PM ET
When Kiaran McLaughlin entered Alpha in Saturday’s seventh race, the trainer thought he had picked a difficult spot for the colt to make his debut. Not only was the race seven furlongs, it also featured well-regarded horses who had the benefit of a previous start.
“[Alpha] drew down toward the inside, the 3 hole he had, and I was afraid of two who had already started [Invocation and Africanist] because seven-eighths is a hard distance first-time out,” said McLaughlin.
Alpha made those concerns moot by securing the fourth position up the backstretch, advancing into second on the far turn, reeling in the free-running pacesetter with three-sixteenths left, and needing only intermittent urging from jockey Alan Garcia to win by six lengths. The final time for seven furlongs was 1:23.97.
“It was a ‘wow’ performance,” said McLaughlin. “He ran huge. Everything went right for him and he won easily. We don’t win that often first-time out, so that was nice.”
Alpha, a Darley Stable homebred, is by 2006 Champion Three-Year-Old Male Bernardini and out of the Nijinsky II mare Munnaya, who won an English listed stakes. Munnaya has produced four horses with black type, including Mystic Melody, who in France captured a listed stakes and placed in two Group 3 events.
Even though Alpha has a strong turf presence in his pedigree, McLaughlin thought the colt’s strong dirt works suggested he’d perform well on the main track.
“We try to get them all started on the dirt, and he trained well on the dirt,” said McLaughlin. “We will probably look at the Champagne on October 8 [at Belmont Park]. It’s a big step up, but that’s what you have to do these days. We’ll also see what Sheikh Mohammed and his people want us to do.”
Horses previously featured in the New York Watch series include 2010 Champion Two-Year-Old Colt Uncle Mo; Boys At Tosconova, triumphant in the Three Chimneys Hopeful; More Than Real, who annexed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; Breeders’ Futurity hero J. B.’s Thunder; To Honor and Serve, who swept the Nashua and Remsen; TVG Alabama victress Royal Delta; and multiple graded-stakes winner Winter Memories. Other graded stakes winners on the New York Watch list are Eightyfiveinafifty, Position Limit, Flashpoint, Overdriven, and My Miss Aurelia.