Plan B paid off for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in Sunday’s $100,000 Alydar at Saratoga Race Course.
McLaughlin sent out Alpha, who swept the Grade II Jim Dandy and Grade I Travers here in 2012 then won the 2013 Grade I Woodward, as the favorite but watched 7-1 shot Farhaan close for the win.
“We thought Alpha would be able to win, but in the first turn, he got kind of jammed up and went a little quick and almost ran off with Johnny [Velazquez] down the back side,” McLaughlin said. “So it wasn’t an ideal situation, but that’s why we had Farhaan as a backup plan. It worked out great.”
Farhaan was coming off a four-month layoff due to minor issues after a fifth in the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland. He had won his previous two starts, including a neck win in the $98,000 Stymie at Aqueduct.
For Plan B, it helps he had Jockey A.
Irad Ortiz Jr. booked his third win from three mounts on the day, two of them for McLaughlin. In the last three days, he is 9-1-1 from 19 starts, winning at a rate of 47 percent.
Ortiz saw Alpha go out fast and make the lead entering the backstretch in the 1 1⁄8-mile dirt race for horses 4 and older. Alpha took the field through fast fractions — 23.26 and 46.95 — and Ortiz kept Farhaan at the back of the field to reserve his energy.
“My plan was to sit; break and sit, come running in the end,” Ortiz said. “That’s what happened today.
“They went a little fast, you know? Stakes horses, they run that fast, they can go and keep going, so you never know. Thank God, they came back, and it worked for us today.”
Entering the stretch, Alpha backed up to third as Farhaan and Stormin Monarcho closed to finish first and second. Farhaan returned $17.80, $8.60 and $4.50 in the win. Stormin Monarcho paid $6.10 and $3.90, while Alpha paid $3.10 to show.
Trainer Shug McGaughey confirmed Mr Speaker will run in the $1.25 Grade I Travers on Saturday after the 3-year-old Pulpit colt breezed four furlongs on the main track in :48.67.
“I thought he worked very well this morning, exactly the way I wanted him to go,” McGaughey said. “He did it very easily and galloped out very strong. If he comes out of it good and has a good week, then I guess we’ll go.”
Mr Speaker won the Grade I Belmont Derby on July 5 his last time out, and the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland three races back on April 19.
Runner-up in the Curlin, Charge Now will run in the Travers for Bill Mott. The Tiznow colt, half-brother to Super Saver, worked five furlongs Saturday on the Oklahoma training track in 1:01.45.
“I thought about the Travers six months ago,” Mott said Sunday. “That’s what I had in mind then, and that’s what I’m still thinking. I think he has a lot of stamina. He keeps coming. There are some good horses in there, and I’m sure there are some that get the distance as well, but I think he ran well enough the other day [in the Curlin]. He’s one that just keeps coming. I’d like to give him a try, anyway.”
Viva Majorca, who is owned by Mary Lou Whitney and was fourth in the Curlin, but only a length back from the victorious V. E. Day, also will report for the Travers. He worked five furlongs on the main track Sunday in 1:00.52 for trainer Ian Wilkes. Wilkes also sent out Ulanbator, who was fifth in the Grade II Jim Dandy, under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.. Ulanbator went five furlongs in 1:01.77 in preparation for the Travers.
Working toward the seven-furlong Grade I King’s Bishop on the Travers undercard, Tony Dutrow’s The Big Beast breezed four furlongs in :48.60 on the main track. Last week, he worked five in :58.92, which Dutrow said “may have been the most impressive workout that I have ever seen in my whole life.”
The Big Beast won an allowance here on July 26 by a convincing 61⁄4 lengths.
Nick Zito’s C. Zee also will head to the King’s Bishop after clocking a :46.58 half-mile Saturday. He also covered that distance in :47.02 on Aug. 9. Both works were bullets, the most recent the fastest of 106 horses, the previous work the fastest of 70. C. Zee was second his last time out in the Grade II Amsterdam, beaten by three lengths by Coup de Grace.
In his next-to last-work for the Grade I Woodward on Aug. 30, Palace Malice covered four furlongs in :48.90 on the main track on Saturday while wearing blinkers. He wore them in the Kentucky Derby, but has not raced in them since.
“I’m not committed to running him in blinkers,” Pletcher said. “He’ll work without blinkers on Saturday or Sunday. He worked the same as he did without them. I didn’t see a big change in his personality.”
The steeplechase race that was canceled on Wednesday will be run at the beginning of today’s card. There is no change, however, to the time of the first post. Unlike other steeplechase races at this year’s meet, the post time for today’s 2 3⁄8-mile run for horses 4 and older will be 1 p.m.