The Count Fleet Stakes is traditionally the first stakes race for 3-year-olds in New York. The 2012 Count Fleet Stakes will be held Jan. 7 and features the 3-year-old debut of the highly-regarded Alpha for Godolphin Racing.

A field of seven is slated for this year's running of the Count Fleet Stakes, which is contested over one mile and 70 yards on the Aqueduct inner dirt track.

Alpha, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, will be making his first start since a disappointing 11th-place fnish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Prior to that, Alpha was a dominant Maiden winner at Saratoga before being a solid second to Union Rags, who is one of the Eclipse Award finalists for champion 2-year-old of 2011, in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. Alpha will be racing with the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, which sometimes can improve a horse's performance, for the first time in the Count Fleet. He has been installed as the heavy 4-to-5 favorite on the morning line.

The Count Fleet Stakes and the remainder of Aqueduct's 3-year-old Stakes program figures to gain in notoriety this year because of an increase in purses that are due largely to the success of the recently-opened World Resorts Casino at Aqueduct. The Count Fleet is followed in the New York 3-year-old series by the Gotham Stakes and concludes with the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes.

First run in 1975, the Count Fleet Stakes is named after the winner of the 1943 Triple Crown. Count Fleet would win 16 of 21 starts during his distinguished racing career and would go on to become a top stallion. In 1951 Count Fleet was the United States' leading sire.

Among the notable previous winners of the Count Fleet Stakes are Smarty Jones and Prairie Bayou.

Smarty Jones, who won the 2004 Count Fleet, would go on that spring to become the first undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby since Seattle Slew in 1977. Two weeks later would add the Preakness Stakes, but in his bid for racing immortality in the Belmont Stakes, Smarty Jones would be overtaken by Birdrun in deep stretch to finish second.

Prairie Bayou would win the 1993 Count Fleet Stakes and add wins in three other Kentucky Derby prep races. Made the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, Prairie Bayou encountered trouble and could only be second to Sea Hero. Two weeks later he would prove his greatness with a win in the Preakness.

Achilles of Troy holds the record for the fastest running of the Count Fleet. He stopped the teletimer in a swift 1:39.61 in the 2006 edition of the Count Fleet.

Jockeys Jorge Velasquez and Richard Migliore lead in all-time wins among riders with three apiece.

Interestingly, the only trainer to win multiple Count Fleet's was Johnny Campo in 1977 and 1991.

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