Trainer Michael Matz will be looking for his first win in the $300,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) when he sends Union Rags to the post Saturday as the 7-5 prohibitive favorite.
Undefeated in two starts, Union Rags comes into the race with a 7¼-length win in the slop in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course on August 15. Union Rags covered the 6½-furlongs in 1:18.33 and earned a 100 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort.
If Union Rags repeats the form of his previous two races, he will be tough in the Champagne Stakes. A bullet work on October 1 and Union Rags should be ready to run a good race.
A young colt that I’m especially intrigued with in this race is the 5-2 morning line second choice Alpha.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Alpha posted an impressive 6-length win in his maiden debut at Saratoga on September 3. Alpha covered the 7-furlongs in 1:23.97 and earned a 96 speed figure for that performance.
Alpha is taking a big step up in class but a bullet work out on October 3 indicates that he could be ready to run a good race. And he has the breeding to win the Champagne Stakes.
One never knows if these two-year-olds will live up to their breeding. But Alpha has one of the best pedigrees I’ve seen on this year’s juvenile trail. His Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile, an index I use to measure classic potential, is a very good 97.5 – a score of 100 or more is excellent.
Union Rags may be too fast and a mile too short for Alpha. But, win or lose, If Alpha lives up to his breeding he may have the potential to become a serious Kentucky Derby candidate.
Bernardini, the sire of Alpha, was a Classic Champion Thoroughbred as were his grandsire, A. P. Indy and great grandsire Seattle Slew. Nijinsky, the damsire of Alpha, and Northern Dancer were also Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. Alydar, the sire of the second dam, would have been a Classic Champion Thoroughbred if it had not been for Affirmed.
Munnaya, the dam of Alpha, raced in England and won the 11-furlong Lingfield Oaks Trail Stakes and finished third in the 10-furlong Pretty Polly Stakes. The remaining four dams on the tail-female line – Hiaam, Kamar, Square Angel and Nangela – were all stakes winners. Kamar was the 1979 Canadian Champion three-year-old filly and Square Angel was the 1973 Champion.
I’ve seen horses with good pedigrees who failed to transfer their breeding to the racetrack. However, if Alpha’s debut is an indication of what is to come and if he lives up to his breeding, he should continue to move forward and I look for him to be competitive in the Champagne.
Only time will tell.
Takes The Gold (6-1) is stepping up in class but appears to an improving colt and could be a factor in the Champagne. Takes The Gold finished third in his debut to Currency Swap and comes into the race with a 3¼-length win going a mile at Belmont Park on September 10.
Invocation (20-1) has improved his performance with every race he’s run and finished second to Alpha in his last outing. If Invocation continues to move forward he could be competitive.