Friday, January 27, 2012


NYRA NOTES: Friday, January 27, 2012


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Godolphin Racing’s promising sophomore Alpha will likely turn in a work for next Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes Sunday or Monday at Belmont Park. A comfortable winner of the Count Fleet at the Big A on January 7 despite some gate trouble, Alpha has been schooling in the gate regularly since the race and will continue that work this week in preparation for 1 1/16-mile Withers, said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

“We’re not going to breeze from the gate, but maybe we’ll stand in there [Saturday], breeze Sunday or Monday and then one more time probably in the gate before the race,” Magnuson said. “He was great the other day, but you’ve got to keep doing it. You can’t just go once.”


Keeping Alpha in New York after the Count Fleet was an attractive option given the revamped 3-year-old stakes program, with the Withers moving up on the calendar to serve as a steppingstone to the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham on March 3 and the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial on April 7.

“It’s fantastic this year what they’ve done with the Count Fleet, Withers, Gotham, and Wood,” Magnuson said. “It’s a great progam, best in the country, seriously. It’s a steady march, great purses, and there’s grading in there. It’s ideal.”

Alpha, a son of Bernardini, debuted a six-length winner on closing weekend at Saratoga Race Course and then finished second in the Grade 1 Champagne behind Union Rags. Never a factor in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on November 5, Alpha was sent to Florida after the race and returned to the worktab at Palm Meadows in December. After shipping to New York the week before the Count Fleet, he breezed a bullet half-mile in 47.88/

According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, Alpha is likely to face Hakama, King Kid, Phil Dancer, Speightscity, Swag Daddy and Tiger Walk in the Withers, with How Do I Win and Longview Drive also under consideration for the race.

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Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole teamed up to win the Grade 3 Toboggan in 2011 with Calibrachoa, and the tandem could have a pair of starters in the 2012 edition of the six-furlong race.

Repole said via email that he could run both Calibrachoa and Caixa Eletronica in the Toboggan, which carries a purse of $150,000 and will be contested February 4. The pair respectively finished third and fifth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap on November 27, with Caixa Eletronica returning to win the Rise Jim overnight stakes by 4 ¾ lengths on January 8. Calibrachoa, who added victories Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap and Grade 3 Bold Ruler following the Toboggan last year, is unraced since the Cigar Mile.

Caixa Eletronica has been aiming for the Grade 2 General George Handicap on February 20 at Laurel Park and will remain probable for that race if he runs in the Toboggan, Repole said

“[We’re] leaning towards running both [horses],” said Repole. “Caixa can come back and still run in the General George, even if the General George is [February 20].”

In addition, Repole and Pletcher have How Do I Win, fourth in the Count Fleet on January 7, under consideration for the Grade 3 Withers, the featured race on the February 4 card.

* * *

Among those pointing to the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan is inner-track star Dr Disco, who won an optional claimer on January 2 to kick off his 4-year-old campaign. The New York-bred son of Disco Rico will be making his graded-stakes debut in the six-furlong Toboggan, and trainer Bruce Brown is hoping he will rise to the occasion.

“If we’re going to do it, this is the time to take a shot and decide whether he is going to be a nice New York-bred stakes horse or step up,” said Brown. “He loves the inner track [5-1-0 in six starts]. He hugs the rail around the turn. Sometimes he drifts a little bit in the stretch but he corners very well. I think that’s what helps him at Aqueduct with the tighter turns. While some of the other horses might be struggling to get around the turn, he scoots around there and saves a lot of ground. That’s a big advantage for him.”

While most of Dr Disco’s victories have come on the lead, in his most recent start he came three-wide approaching the quarter-pole before going onto a 2 ½-length win.

“It’s good to know he’s not a one-dimensional horse, that you can ease him back and that he doesn’t need to be in front,” said Brown. “It wasn’t the plan last time, it just worked out that way. That’s the thing with [jockey] Mike [Luzzi] – he knows him so well. With Dr Disco maturing, he’s gotten to the point where you can do that with him and he still responds. He still has his speed, but he doesn’t have to be in front.”

Others pointing to the Toboggan are Candyman E, winner of the 2011 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park last time out; Diski Dance, making his stakes debut on the heels of an optional claiming victory at Laurel on January 5, and J J’s Lucky Train, winner of 2011’s Grade 3 Bay Shore who was most recently third to Caixa Eletronica in the Rise Jim on January 8. Flat Bold, Hillswick, Rule by Night and Temecula Creek are questionable.

* * *

Nicole H, originally under consideration for the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel, will stay in New York to compete in the $100,000 Correction at Aqueduct on February 4, trainer Mike Hushion has revealed.



The Gem, Inc. color-bearer has won four of her last five starts, including Aqueduct’s Interborough on New Year’s Day. The Interborough was only her second start since her victory in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap in April at the Big A as she had suffered a respiratory infection following the race. The Correction, like the Interborough, is a six-furlong race on the inner track.

“She worked all right [after the Interborough], she looks great, and her weight is great,” said Hushion. “She’s as big as a house.”

Hushion believes keeping Nicole H in New York is the best way to ensure the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley remains healthy in 2012.

“We were thinking about [going to the Barbara Fritchie],” said Hushion. “We went back and forth about that. Right now, with the problems she had last year with the respiratory infection, we thought we might be better off if we stayed home for the winter.

Hushion said his long-term plans for Nicole H include a title defense in the Distaff in April.

The probables for the Correction also include Golden Mystery, Honchis’n Ponchis, Streaker, and Winning Move. Cinco de Mayo Mio, Love That Dance, and Smart Stride are possible.


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