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Feb 02, 2012

Alpha goes after first in Withers


Ozone Park, NY (Sports Network) - Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet Stakes, heads a field of seven for Saturday's $200,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. The 1 1/16-mile event is part of the track's stakes series for three-year-olds leading to the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 7.

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the Count Fleet, Alpha will start the Withers from the outside post with Ramon Dominguez again riding. The colt is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing.

"It's fantastic this year what they've done with the Count Fleet, Withers, Gotham, and Wood," said McLaughlin's assistant Artie Magnuson. "It's a great program, best in the country, seriously. It's a steady march, great purses, and there's grading in there. It's ideal.

"The thought is (to run in) all of them. We could skip one if we want, but the thought is to just do all four. The Kentucky Derby is very important, but this series is very important. These aren't preps, these are important races, so we're treating them that way. We take the Withers very seriously, and the Gotham. We've won a stake and that's nice, and this is graded, that's important, everything's very important. Alpha needs to show up, needs to run, but we couldn't be happier with him now."

With two wins in four career starts Alpha has $180,000 in his bankroll. Last year he was second to Union Rags in the Champagne and 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile won by Hansen with Union Rags second. Bernardini, sire of Alpha, won this race in 2006.

Owner Mike Repole, of Uncle Mo fame, has How Do I Win entered in the Withers. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray three-year-old will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez from post five .

How Do I Win was fourth in the Count Fleet last month at 11-1. Prior to that start he had won two straight after failing in his first three races.

"He's been kind of inconsistent in the afternoons, as you can tell from the past performances, but when he puts everything together I think he'll live up to expectations," said Pletcher, who won the Withers in 2008 with Harlem Rocker. "In his last race, the jockey took too much hold of him, and he's more of a free-running horse."

Here is the full Withers' field from the rail out: Hakama, Julian Pimentel; Speightscity, David Cohen; Swag Daddy, Junior Alvarado; King Kid, Mike Luzzi; How Do I Win, Cornelio Velasquez; Tiger Walk, Horacio Karamanos and Alpha, Ramon Dominguez.

Post-time for the Withers is slated at 4:05 p.m. (et).

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