Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
Alpha could make up for Out Of Bounds absence
ANYONE who has put heart, soul and mind into winning the Kentucky Derby knows one thing - disappointment always lingers just around the proverbial corner.
Sometimes though, when disaster strikes, there is another bullet in the chamber.
That is where Sheikh Mohammed finds himself, some six weeks out from the coveted Classic.
It is well documented how for years he has tried to win the race, often by taking horses home to Dubai for the winter to prep them for a return to the US.
This time, he chose to leave a pair of capable, developing two-year-olds, Out Of Bounds and Alpha, Stateside for their preparation.
Out of Bounds, trained by Eoin Harty in California, showed he was a legitimate Derby contender when he won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on January 7 in what was just his third start.
It then was Harty's plan to wait for the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at the same track for the horse's next outing, a plan devised to keep Out Of Bounds from peaking too early.
But fate raised its ugly head when Out of Bounds suffered a condylar fracture of his left fore in exercise at Hollywood Park. Though he did not suffer a career-ending injury, the Godolphin flagbearer would haveno Kentucky Derby in his future.
"He had an exceptional work this morning," Harty told the Daily Racing Form at the time. "A very good work. We all had high hopes for this horse. We are all disappointed, not only for meand my staff, but for the Maktoum family as well, for he is a homebred. This is the real deal.
"His prognosis is excellent. A horse like this, he's one in ten thousand. Just to get your hands on a horse like this and now this."
Fate 1 Sheikh Mohammed 0.
But there is another bullet in the chamber.
Alpha, 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November demonstrated improvement in winning the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct in January and looked to have improved when landing the Grade 3 Withers Stakes there on February 4.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin then had to decide between the Grade 1 Florida Derbyat Gulfstream Park on March 31 and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct a week later.
Among those in the Florida Derby will be Union Rags, so impressive on his seasonal debut, in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, while the Wood could include Hansen, a smooth winner of the Gotham Stakes last time.
But it looks like the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on April 1 will be the Derby stepping stone for Alpha.
"The chances are very good we're coming that way," said McLaughlin
"Simon Crisford [Godolphin's racing manager] is the one who makes these decisions and we had a talk on Monday, back and forth on email. We agreed that Fair Grounds is a good spot. We'll stay here in Florida and work this last time, make sure all is well.
"It's a million dollars, a Grade 2 and we like the timing of it. Alpha's a great mover and he wants to run all day. He seems to get better in his races the farther he goes."
Now if fate will just keeps its ugly mug lowered, Alpha could after all these years of frustration and disappointment finally give the Sheikh Mohammed what I'm sure would be a very popular victory in America's premier Classic.