Friday, February 3, 2012

Withers Stakes Racing Roundup

Alpha, a promising young colt, sired by the 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1) victor Bernardini, will go the to the starting gate Saturday as the morning line even-money favorite in the 132nd running of the $200,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Alpha has been on my watch list since last summer and of the seven horses entered in the Withers, he appears to have the most promise and may have classic potential – he definitely has the breeding to be competitive in classic competition.
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.

Alpha’s sire, Bernardini, as well as his grandsire
A. P. Indy and great grandsire Seattle Slew, were Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. Nijinsky, the damsire of Alpha, and maternal grandsire 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 3-year-old filly and Square Angel was the 1973 Champion.

won his maiden debut last September by six lengths and was wheeled back a month later in the Champagne Stakes (G1) where he finished a respectable second to the speedy Union Rags.

However, in his next race, Alpha acted up in the starting gate of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and finished a disappointing eleventh, beaten 19½-lengths by Hansen who would later be crowned Eclipse Champion 2-Year-Old Male.

Alpha’s fractious behavior indicates that he may have some emotional conformation issues and it gave me cause to take a wait and see approach. He displayed similar behavior in the Count Fleet Stakes but went on to win.

I’ll be watching Alpha closely to see how he behaves in the Withers. A bullet work out on January 30 indicates that he could be ready to run another good race. If Alpha continues to improve and move forward, he should easily win the Withers.

Only time will tell how well Alpha fares on the Kentucky Derby Trail.

King Kid (4-1), the morning line second-choice, and Tiger Walk (6-1) could also be competitive in the Withers.

In just his second start, King Kid stepped up to stakes competition in his 3-year-old debut and finished third in the
8½-furlong Gulfstream Park Derby at Gulfstream Park on January 1. Since then, King Kid has had two nice work outs and if he moves forward, he should improve in his second start off of the layoff.

Although Tiger Walk has not raced in 52 days, it appears that he was steadily improving with two first-place finishes at the close of his racing season as a 2-year-old. Since then, Tiger Walk has been working out good at Laurel Park and he’s had two bullet work outs.

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