SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Always respect the "horse for course" angle, especially at Saratoga.
Alpha had lost six in a row, beaten a combined 79 lengths, since dead-heating for the win here in last year's Travers. That's why he was the longest shot in a field of five in yesterday's Grade I Woodward Stakes. You wouldn't have known Alpha was in a slump after he led throughout and held off Flat Out by a head on a sloppy track, making him 4-for-5 at the Spa. He's 2-for-11 everywhere else.
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"I wish Saratoga was open a little longer for him," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, smiling. "I wish they'd run the Breeders' Cup here."
He credited John Velazquez, Saratoga's all-time leading jockey, for a typically heady ride. "I told Johnny if you break well from the outside and can kick some mud on the rest of them, do that," McLaughlin said. "He agreed, and he did."
Paynter, the 3-2 favorite, was expected to lead, but he broke fourth, never got involved and finished last. Successful Dan was third, with Ron the Greek fourth.
"We had him dead ready for today," McLaughlin said. "I think him breaking well and Paynter not breaking well was very important." So was Flat Out's drifting out under Junior Alvarado's lefthanded whip before lugging in late under a righthanded stick.
Alpha ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.28 and paid $17.40. He earned $450,000, raising his total to $1,772,500 for Godolphin. "This was one of our biggest wins ever," McLaughlin said. "He beat some really nice horses today."
'Charge' charged? The connections of Moreno, second by a nose Aug. 24 in the Travers, filed a complaint Friday with the New York State Gaming Commission, alleging that jockey Luis Saez used an electrical device to stimulate winner Will Take Charge. In an email to Newsday, commission spokesman Lee Park wrote: "We have received a complaint about the Travers Stakes, and the matter is being reviewed. We have sought assistance from the New York State Police, which has video expertise analysis."
When Newsday asked Saez for comment, he said, "No, no," and walked away. Richard DePass, his agent, denied the allegation, the Daily Racing Form reported.
Notes & quotes: Strapping Groom ($32.40) beat Jackson Bend by a half-length in the Grade I, 7-furlong Forego Handicap . . . Front-running Silver Max ($3.80) won the Grade II, 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch Handicap by two lengths on yielding turf.