Alpha, Creative Cause, Hansen, and Union Rags are the Fantastic Four of the Kentucky Derby trail, being the best horses of their respective regions. However, the decision to send Hansen to New York sent Alpha and his connections fleeing for Florida. The prospect of challenging Union Rags remains as unappealing to Alpha as returning to take back the Big Apple and face Hansen. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who recently attained his 1,000th win in North America, said, “Union Rags is a nose from being undefeated. He’s a serious horse. I don’t like our chances of beating Union Rags. I don’t like running in races that I don’t think we can win. I have that much respect for Union Rags, but then again, Hansen is waiting up there (in the Wood Memorial), so it’s not going to be easy no matter where you go.” With less than $200,000 of Graded Stakes earnings, it is conceivable to see this year’s Kentucky Derby held without Alpha, one of the leading contenders. Alpha’s connections are left with few options to turn to, having just over a month left to slip into the Kentucky Derby field.
After seeing Hansen win the Gotham Stakes so effortlessly, running in New York was undoubtedly a concern for Alpha’s connections not only because of the challenge Hansen would offer, but also that Ramon Dominguez would have to choose between riding Alpha and Hansen. Instead of shipping to Florida, where Union Rags had been planning to race in the Florida Derby, Alpha could have been sent to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, where there are several big races with purses that would secure his spot in the Derby.
Alpha could have easily been entered in this weekend’s $500,000 Rebel Stakes against a solid field, having made his most recent start on February 4th. He could have then followed up his effort in the GII Rebel with the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby on April 14th, giving him an opportunity to get into the Derby even if he didn’t win one of these races. Though the quality of the fields in Hansen’s and Union Rags’ races are overall lower, facing another astounding athlete could be tiresome, regardless of who is the better horse. Putting Alpha against either of these horses could take vital energy out of him, and the other horse he faces – Hansen or Union Rags.
The Louisiana Derby on April 1st is a race that they are considering, and is also a promising option for Alpha, boasting a $1,000,000 purse. The Louisiana Derby may work even better for Alpha because he has not started since February, and probably needs another race. Additionally, the horses competing in the Rebel Stakes will likely run in the Arkansas Derby instead of the Louisiana Derby, making it an easier effort for Alpha.
This horse has shown to be exceptional as a three-year-old, and it would be great to see him get to the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, as he has done far more than enough to earn his shot at North America’s most prestigious race.