Alpha and Flat Out hooked up for a furious finish in the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday with Alpha digging in gamely to secure the victory.
Ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Alpha–who dead-heated with Golden Ticket to win last year’s Grade 1 Travers -broke on top and took the
field of five through an opening quarter-mile in 24.26 seconds over the sloppy track. With 3-2 favorite Paynter and Flat Out tracking him two lengths back, the 4-year-old son of Bernardini got a half-mile in 48.20 and three-quarters in 1:11.57.
As Paynter began to fade, Alpha turned for home with a one-length advantage that increased when Flat Out went wide coming off the turn.
“We waited until the quarter-pole when the other horse [Flat Out] came to me,” said Velazquez. “Once that other horse didn’t pass me at the three-sixteenths pole, I knew my horse was going to put up a good fight. Obviously, he did and kicked ahead.”
Flat Out’s Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott told NYRA Press: “He did everything but catch him. I can’t complain.”
Alpha completed the 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy track in 1:49.28 for his first victory in seven starts since the historic dead-heat in the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
“The stretch run was more nerve-wracking than the Travers, because we were there, trying to hold him off,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who outfitted Alpha with blinkers for the Woodward. “But it was great. When Flat Out came to us, Johnny said he kind of looked at the tire tracks [on the track] late, but we’re here in the winner’s circle, so it was a great win, one of our biggest, probably. I told Johnny if he breaks well and he can throw mud on the rest of them, please do. He agreed with me. He’s a great rider and you hope things go like planned, and they did.”
Alpha, 6-2-0 from 16 career starts, has earned $1,772,500 for Godolphin Stable.
Finishing third, 6 ¾ lengths behind Flat Out, was Successful Dan. Ron the Greek was fourth, with Paynter checking in fifth.