WOODWARD STAKES | PURSE: $750,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Godolphin Stables' Alpha sprung a wire-to-wire upset in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 31, winning for the first time since he took the 2012 Travers Stakes last August in a dead heat with Golden Ticket.
The longest shot in a five-horse field at 7-1, Alpha broke like a shot under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and bounded to the lead, leaving West Coast speedster Paynter in his wake along with multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out.
Thrown out of his game on the sloppy track, 3-2 favorite Paynter was hustled along by jockey Rafael Bejarano but faded after pushing to second two lengths behind a :24.46 quarter and a half in :48.20, then tracking along as three-quarters went in 1:11.57.
Alpha, who rated kindly betwen the two and three paths while cutting the pace, responded eagerly when let out a notch departing the backstretch. Flat Out swung out for the drive after racing third and looked ready to reel in the leader, but Alpha fought back gamely on the inside.
Flat Out was perhaps denied victory due to taking an erratic course under the steady left-handed urging of jockey Junior Alvarado. The 7-year-old Suburban Handicap winner drifted out steadily in late stretch and only corrected his course after the rider switched his stick over to the other side, then drifted in to just miss as Alpha held sway by a head on the line.
Final time for the 1 ⅛-mile contest was 1:49.28.
Alpha, a 4-year-old son of Bernardini trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, paid $17.40, $6.30, and $3.40, while Flat Out returned $3.50 and $2.20 and Successful Dan brought $2.80 when finishing 6 ¾ lengths back in third. Ron the Greek and Paynter completed the order of finish; Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man scratched.
Alpha was bred in Kentucky by Darley out of the Nijinsky II mare Munnaya. He improved his record to six wins and two seconds from 16 starts, and also counts the 2012 Jim Dandy Stakes and Withers Stakes among his scores.