McLaughlin said he was leaning toward the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack for Kentucky Derby hopeful Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers at the Big A earlier this year. Alpha shipped to Florida to train at Palm Meadows after his Withers victory on February 4 and a start in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31 had been under consideration.
Union Rags – who defeated Alpha in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park last October – was narrowly beaten by eventual 2-year-old champion Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and easily won his sophomore debut in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on February 26. El Padrino earned his graded stakes breakthrough with a gutsy nose victory in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds Race Course the previous day. Both colts are pointing for the Florida Derby.
McLaughlin said the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on April 1 was a secondary possibility for Alpha.
“Our second choice would be the Louisiana Derby,” noted McLaughlin. “We feel comfortable in New York and Florida because that’s where we’re stabled.”
Alpha worked five furlongs in 1:01.01 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows, his fourth breeze since the Withers.
“He worked great,” said McLaughlin. “He’s really doing very well. All systems are go and we’re very happy with him.”
McLaughlin also has a choice to make for Godolphin’s multiple Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky. The 4-year-old Mineshaft filly took the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct two weeks ago in her 2012 debut. Next, the trainer is weighing a start in Oaklawn’s Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 13, also at 1 1/16 miles, or the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap here at Aqueduct, seven furlongs on April 14.
“The Distaff is probably more likely,” McLaughlin said. “It looks like Havre de Grace is pointing for the Apple Blossom, and we’re already there in New York. Cutting back in distance might be a little bit of a negative, but she did run a huge race at a mile around one turn at Belmont in the Acorn, and we’re pointing for the Ogden Phipps [Grade 1, $400,000 1 1/16 miles] at Belmont on May 28, which is also run around one turn.”
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Trainer Chad Brown is eyeing the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial with Street Life, who on Saturday won his stakes debut, Aqueduct’s Broad Brush overnight stakes.
In the 1 1/16-mile Broad Brush, Street Life found himself in fourth, 5 ½ lengths behind the leader, through three-quarters in 1:15.35, but was able to reel in pacesetter Copy My Swagger to get up by a half-length under jockey Junior Alvarado.
“I thought he ran well, and he overcame a slow pace,” said Brown, who trains the son of Street Sense for Magnolia Racing Stable and Hidden Brook Farm. “He’s still learning, but he has talent.”
Street Life has made three starts to date, finishing eighth on debut at six furlongs on January 5 at Gulfstream Park and breaking his maiden by 2 ½ lengths going one mile on February 11 at Aqueduct. In both the Broad Brush and his maiden win, Street Life lagged early before launching a strong stretch run.
“[A slow pace is] always a concern, but he has a tremendous amount of stamina and when Junior asked him for more he gave it to him,” said Brown. “That’s how he has trained and raced all along, so that wasn’t a surprise.”
Brown said he’ll see how Street Life exits the Broad Brush before he decides the colt’s next start, but said the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial on April 7 would be a logical choice.
“I’d definitely consider the Wood,” said Brown. “The race is back a little quick, but we wouldn’t have to ship. And he hasn’t really had the chance to run into an honest pace.”
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Jockey Ryan Curatolo was released from Jamaica Hospital Medical Center Saturday evening after being diagnosed with a back strain, according to the NYRA jockey advocate.
Curatolo fell from his mount in Saturday’s seventh race at Aqueduct. Curatolo’s agent, Bob Klesaris, said the jockey hopes to ride as scheduled on Wednesday.
“He’s sore today, but he’ll be OK,” said Klesaris.
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A large field of New York-bred fillies and mares looks likely for next Saturday’s $75,000 Broadway Stakes scheduled for six furlongs on Aqueduct’s main track. The 6-year-old Big Brownie heads the probable field off a comeback stakes win in the Holly Springs at Aqueduct on February 3. She is expected to compete with Bailzee, Devilish Spirit, Final Mesa, Lady Gracenote, Midnight Visit, Nicole’s Miss El, Saltamontes, and Victoryat Last.
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Today marks the final day of the 2011-12 inner-track meet, with Ramon Dominguez and David Jacobson having respectively clinched the jockey and trainer titles and Michael Dubb closing strongly to prevail as the leading owner.
Dominguez has sewn up his fifth consecutive inner-track riding title and through Sunday’s fourth race maintained a 103-84 lead over Cornelio Velasquez in the jockey standings. Junior Alvarado was in third with 81 wins. Dominguez, who has topped the NYRA year-end standings the past three years, now has 16 NYRA meet titles to his credit.
Jacobson and Rick Dutrow, Jr. battled for the top spot in the trainer standings before the former pulled clear during the final week to earn his third NYRA meet title. Through Sunday’s fourth race, Jacobson led Dutrow 39-34. In 2011, Jacobson shared the Aqueduct spring title with Linda Rice and won the Belmont Park fall title outright.
Michael Dubb won the final two stakes of the meet – the Grade 3 Excelsior with Marilyn’s Guy and the Time Tested overnight stakes with Flat Bold – to capture the owner title 21-20 over Drawing Away Stable. Going into Saturday’s card, Drawing Away led 20-19 before Dubb won with Marilyn’s Guy and Flat Bold, his final two starters of the meet.
Racing shifts to the main track on Wednesday, with the Aqueduct spring meet concluding on April 22.