Ignore Alpha's two trips to Louisville and he looks terrific. Besides flops in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (11th) and the Kentucky Derby (12th), he's 5-for-7, with four stakes victories and two seconds at Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
He's going out of town for Saturday's $1-million, 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hopes the van ride down the Jersey Turnpike won't make his Travers winner go south.
Of the 11 horses who beat Alpha on Derby Day, only synthetic specialist Dullahan is in top form, and he's 0-for-6 on dirt. I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Union Rags and Hansen are retired, leaving Alpha as the leading 3-year-old colt in training. He's stayed sound since January, with only a fever before the Belmont Stakes interrupting his training. It proves if you have talent and keep showing up, you can become an alpha male.
"He's training great, doing very well,'' McLaughlin said. Alpha, favored at 9-5, faces Golden Ticket, with whom he dead-heated in the Travers, and six others in his Breeders' Cup prep.
McLaughlin also is sending the leading 3-year-old filly, Questing, to Parx for the $1-million Cotillion Stakes, the first Grade I run in Pennsylvania. Questing dazzled at Saratoga, dominating the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama by a combined 13 1/4 lengths. Although she'll have only three opponents, she's never faced one as good as the 5-for-5 My Miss Aurelia, last year's 2-year-old filly champion.
Questing, the even-money favorite, must carry 7 more pounds (124-117). Turning back from the Alabama's 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/16 also could be a disadvantage. "It's a little bit of a concern, but not as much as the weights,'' McLaughlin said. "It'll be interesting to see how they go the first half-mile. I hope we're in front and not going too fast.''