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Alpha Leads Withers Field At The Big A

Godolphin's Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet Stakes on January 7th, leads a field of seven in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday afternoon (Post time: 4:05pm ; TV: TVG & HRTV). The Withers is Alpha's fifth lifetime start, following a score against Maiden Special Weight's at Saratoga last September, a 2nd place finish in the G1-Champagne to Union Rags in early October, and a disappointing 11th place finish at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His first race of 2012, the aforementioned Count Fleet, Alpha wore down pacesetter Il Villano inside the final furlongs to win by a relatively easy two and a half lengths.

Alpha, like the winner of last Sunday's Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, is a three-year-old son of Bernardini. He is out of a Nijinsky II mare (Munnaya) and most of his siblings spent their racing career in England or France.

Alpha followed up his victory in the Count Fleet with a blistering five furlong bullet work on Jan. 30th over the Belmont training track.

Two shippers from Laurel Park may provide the toughest test for Alpha in the Withers. 1-Hakama won a maiden race at Aqueduct before heading to Laurel to score in an $40k OC/N1X event in gate to wire fashion. He probably won't get any breaks in the early going but he's shown the ability to stretch his speed over two turns.

6-Tiger Walk also ships in from Lauren after defeating optional claimer/N1X company; prior to that score he ran primarily on the lawn. The son of Tale of the Cat didn't crush that field at Laurel but it was a nice workmanlike effort in his first dirt try, especially when you consider that he was wide throughout the race. There isn't any Trakus at Laurel so it's a guess as to how much ground he lost over the entire race, but there is no doubt that he ran much further than the runner-up, Service for Ten. His maiden score wasn't too shabby as the second place horse came back to win against Maiden Special Weights at Aqueduct in late November.

5-How Do I Win finished well behind Alpha in the Count Fleet but has shown enough flashes of talent in his prior races to be a contender in this race. Anything coming from Pletcher in a graded stakes race like this has to be respected, especially if the horse has shown some decent form on prior occasions.

The New York-bred 3-Swag Daddy will try non-restricted company for the first time in his career for trainer Richard Dutrow. Dutrow is winning at a 37% clip during the current Aqueduct meet.

4-King Kid ran a decent third to Reveron and Casual Trick in the ungraded Gulfstream Park Derby back on New Year's Day. Any improvement off of that race would put him right in the thick of the contenders in the Withers.

Below are the entries and post positions for Saturday's Withers Stakes.

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Hakama J. Pimentel M. Trombetta 5/1
2 Speightscity D. Cohen G. Contessa 20/1
3 Swag Daddy J. Alvarado R. Dutrow 10/1
4 King Kid M. Luzzi D. Romans 4/1
5 How Do I Win C. Velasquez T. Pletcher 10/1
6 Tiger Walk H. Karamanos I. Correas 6/1
7 Alpha R. Dominguez K. McLaughlin Even