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Alpha first for Godolphin as Sheikh's stars shine

Report: USA, Saturday

Aqueduct: Count Fleet Stakes 1m, dirt, 3yo

THE Kentucky Derby trail starts early in the States - and on Saturday horses representing Sheikh Mohammed's various operations left their mark on both coasts.

No sooner has Saeed Bin Suroor's New York barn been disbanded than the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Alpha tabled his claims as a legitimate Classic contender with a fluent victory at Aqueduct in the Godolphin blue.

Ramon Dominguez

Ramon Dominguez: impressed

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Over at Santa Anita, Darley's Out Of Bounds ended the unbeaten record of Breeders' Cup winner Secret Circle in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes.

A disappointment in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Alpha (Ramon Dominguez) posted a comfortable 2½-length victory inthe Count Fleet Stakes, an ungraded $150,000 contest.

Sent off 4-5 favourite on first-time Lasix, the son of Darley's 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini raced three wide throughout behind a slow pace before picking up his rivals in the stretch in a solid performance.

"Turning for home, he responded every time I asked him," said Dominguez. "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."

The Withers Stakes on February 4 and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, both at Aqueduct, look likely targets en route to Churchill Downs for Alpha.

>>On a successful day for Dubai, McLaughlin also won the $100,000 Busanda Stakes with Darley's Captivating Lass (Mike Luzzi).

Also on Saturday

Santa Anita: Sham Stakes (Grade 3) 1m, dirt, 3yo

The Californian trail to Churchill Downs started with a surprise result as Bob Baffert's odds-on favourite Secret Circle was worn down by 10-1 shot Out Of Bounds (Eoin Harty/Garrett Gomez) in the closing stages of the Sham Stakes.

Both the principals were stretching out to two turns, with the giant Out Of Bounds, a son of Discreet Cat, lasting out the better for a half-length victory over the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner.

"He's a very big horse, but he's a gentle giant," Harty said. "He's come around mentally as well as physically, and sometimes it takes a while for both to catch up."

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