By Dick Downey
Alpha put in his final breeze for the Kentucky Derby today at Belmont Park.
According to a tweet by DRF.com's David Grening, Alpha went five furlongs in :59.54 on the training track in company with Steele Road. His fractions were reported to be :11.69, :23.22 and :47.15, with a gallop-out of six furlongs in 1:15.12. Rajiv Maragh was aboard.
In his most recent race, Alpha finished a close second to Gemologist in the Grade I Wood Memorial. Alpha is due at Churchill Downs on Monday.
“That was a little bit faster than most of our horses work,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s only having this one work in between, so we wanted a good, solid half-out-five-eighths. He got a good, solid half-out-five-eighths in 59 and change, so it was a great work.”
Said Maragh, “The horse went really well. He started off nice and comfortable, and finished up really good and galloped out strong. It seems like he’s right on target.”
McLaughlin said Maragh could ride Alpha in the Derby but isn’t ready to make a commitment to any particular rider.
“This week I’m talking to Simon Crisford in England to firm up the jockey, but that’s why we wanted him to work him. If we entered this morning, he would be riding, but we just want to see if any other jockeys come open over the weekend, and we would talk about it. He still might ride him if jockeys come open, but that’s why we haven’t named a rider. But he liked him, and he said he galloped out great and did everything right, worked very well.”
McLaughlin acknowledged that a fast pace could provide an ideal set up for Alpha, but also realizes that it takes more than having a talented horse and favorable pace scenario to win the Derby.
“We’re happy there’s a lot of pace, and we just hope we behave in the gate,” said McLaughlin. “I feel like that’s behind us. He schools all the time, he’s great. You have to have a good trip and not get behind one stopping late.”
At Laurel Park today, Done Talking got done with his major Derby preparation by breezing a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.00 (1/17). He's scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs by van on Sunday.
“I told Sheldon to go a minute and change and he hit it almost on the number,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “I wanted him to gallop out strong. He wasn’t tired when he came back to the barn, and we are ready to go.”
Smith said Done Talking will be stabled in Dale Romans' barn 4 at Churchill Downs. Romans will saddle Dullahan in the Run For The Roses. Both Done Talking and Dullahan were broken by Smith’s brother, Franklin Smith, at the Elloree Training Center in South Carolina.
“He had them from the time the first saddle was put on them until they came up to the races,” said Smith. “He called me once he got to breezing him and said he had a nice colt that he’d like me to have. He hasn’t missed a trick for us. He is a very smart horse and he does everything right.
“I am looking forward to a great race out of him, I really am,” said Smith. “If we get pace up front, that should help us. Naturally you need to have a good trip with all those horses in there. With his running style, you worry about getting shut off, but if we can be mid-pack early, about eighth or ninth and relax, we might shock everybody.”