In today's update on where Kentucky Derby hopeful Alpha will make his next start, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin now indicates it will most likely be… Louisiana. McLaughlin has gone back and forth discussing the Grade 1 Florida Derby and G1 Wood Memorial as the choice, but he told the Fair Grounds Tuesday that the G2 Louisiana Derby on April 1 is the probable winner in the Alpha sweepstakes.
“The chances are very good that we're coming that way,” McLaughlin said. “Simon Crisford [racing manager for Godolphin Racing] is the one who makes these decisions and we had talked yesterday, back and forth on e-mail, and we agreed that the Fair Grounds is a good spot. We will stay here in Florida and work this last time, make sure all is well for everybody going into the Florida Derby, and then we'll enter at the Fair Grounds, most likely.”
Alpha will work at his Palm Meadows Training Center base on Saturday or Sunday and fly to New Orleans on March 28, the Wednesday prior to the race.
“A two-hour flight from West Palm to New Orleans is almost as easy as vanning from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream,” McLaughlin said. “It's a million dollars, a Grade II, and we like the timing of it, being five weeks to the [Kentucky] Derby, or one day short of five weeks.”
McLaughlin said he's signed on Julien Leparoux to ride the son of Bernardini in the Louisiana Derby.
Among Alpha's likely competitors is Mark Valeski, who turned in a sizzling work Tuesday at Fair Grounds with regular rider Rosie Napravnik on board. The Proud Citizen colt went five furlongs in :59 2/5.
Mark Valeksi, owned by former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones, worked after the break at 8:30 a.m. and accomplished the five-eighths through splits of :12 1/5, :24, :36 and : 47 4/5 before finishing the final eighth under no urging from Napravnik in :11 3/5. They galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.
“It was a little quicker than what we had designed to go,” trainer Larry Jones said. “I told her I wanted to work somewhere about a minute or a minute and one. She came back and said she thought he went a little bit quick but she said he was really rolling. It was really good.
“When I looked at him going into the last race I thought he was fat. I started second-guessing myself as we were leading him over. I was thinking, boy, he's fat. But he really looks the way we want him right now. He's really done great and that race put him right where we want to be. We're expecting a big performance.”
The move was Mark Valeski's first official work since coming out on the losing end of a head-to-head stretch duel with El Padrino through the final furlong of the Feb. 25 Risen Star.
“Someone called me the other day while I was driving to Oaklawn and said, 'It's been a long time since Mark Valeski worked, what's the matter with him?' Jones said. “Apparently nothing's the matter with him. I don't know; I don't work my horses as often as a lot of people do. I've been galloping him and I don't let any grass grow under his feet when I gallop him.
“I don't know how people got to thinking that horses need to work every week once you've got them fit and ready to go. I've been around him long enough to know what he needs. If there's something wrong with Mark Valeski, then there must be something wrong with Believe You Can and Mr. Bowling, too, because they all worked today for the first time since they all raced on the same day. That's the way we do it. We've got them fit and we just have to hold them there. We're trying to make them last because we want them to be around for a while.”
Mr. Bowling, the Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner in January, worked earlier in the morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 4/5 under exercise rider Jen Brasser. The Istan colt, also owned by Brereton Jones, worked through splits of :12 2/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :50 4/5.
“Mr. Bowling has always been a slow worker,” Larry Jones said. “He just doesn't think it's a lot of fun out there by himself. If the race doesn't overfill to where he would be excluded for being the same owner (as Mark Valeski), right now we have intentions of running them both.”
Mr. Bowling, who finished last of 11 in the Risen Star, will work in company early next week.
“We'll probably work him Monday with Believe You Can,” Jones said. “I'll probably work Mark on Tuesday since the race is on Sunday. Normally I would work Mr. Bowling on Tuesday but I want him to work in company and I don't want to make Mark go any faster. But the filly sets pretty good and she'll take the workmate well.”
Believe You Can, the Jan. 21 Silverbulletday Stakes winner preparing for the March 31, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (Gr. II), worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 this morning with Napravnik up. The Proud Citizen filly worked through splits of :12 1/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :48 4/5. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.
“Rosie had Believe You Can right on the money,” Jones said. “We're in good shape and we're really happy with all three of them.”
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