The ungraded, $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct was one of two Kentucky Derby 2012 prep races to be run on Jan 7 and strong favorite Alpha did not disappoint in New York. On the West Coast, Out of Bounds upset Secret Circle in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes.
Count Fleet Stakes (1-7-12): 85 BSF (Alpha)
I have always been fond of Alpha but was concerned about his gate behavior after his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile flop. His starting gate antics were on full display once again in the Count Fleet Stakes but he was able to overcome them this time. He stalked, pounced, and cruised home over late runner Stephanoatsee in a solid performance. He received an 85 BSF for his victory on Saturday and is clearly back on the right track.
Alpha has the breeding, connections, and talent to be a legitimate Derby contender but he must work out his gate issues.
Stephanoatsee is no slouch for Graham Motion and should continue to progress. The son of AP Indy is out of Unbridled mare Oatsee, which makes him a 1/2 brother to 2011 Preakness hero Shackleford.
Count Fleet Stakes Grade: C+
G3 Sham Stakes: 99 BSF (Out of Bounds)
Out of Bounds showed promise in his seven furlong maiden win at Hollywood Park on Dec 10 and took another step forward in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The son of Discreet Cat, out of 2001 BC Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine, sat a nice stalking trip and wore down highly regarded Bob Baffert runner Secret Circle.
Secret Circle is no longer undefeated but was hardly disgraced in his two turn debut. He intently tracked Longview Drive and took the lead in the lane only to be tagged by Out of Bounds. The fleet colt probably would have won on Saturday if he tried to run his rivals into the ground but the goal was to relax and learn something about his distance prowess. We now know he can go a flat mile but he could end up turning back in distance sooner rather than later. He does deserve another route start but as of this writing there is no word on his next outing.
G3 Sham Stakes Grade: B-