08/08/2002 11:00PM

Alternate is shipping in

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Graham Motion said he has been anxious to stretch Alternate out to nine furlongs, and he will get that opportunity next Saturday when Alternate starts in the Grade 2, $250,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks.

Motion confirmed Friday that Alternate, second in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in her last start, will come in from her Delaware base for Monmouth's premier race for 3-year-old fillies. While the Monmouth Oaks has produced the last two Breeders' Cup Distaff winners in Spain (2000) and Unbridled Elaine (2001), this year's field is expected to be small and not nearly as strong.

Alternate started her career with a third-place finish in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park Feb. 3 before reeling off three consecutive victories. A win in the Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware May 4 capped off that winning streak, and since she has run second in two stakes - the Susan's Girl at Delaware June 29 and the Delaware Oaks behind Allamerican Bertie July 20.

Motion said Alternate had a poor trip in the Susan's Girl, and was unlucky not to win. Despite her 6 1/- length defeat in the Delaware Oaks, Motion said he was pleased with her performance in that she chased runaway winner Allamerican Bertie.

"It's pretty hard to fault what she has done to this point," Motion said Friday. "She ran a good race in the Delaware Oaks. We had to use her to go with Allamerican Bertie, and she was very game to hang on as well as she did after going through quick fractions. She was just beaten by a very good filly."

Alternate drilled five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Delaware Wednesday, the second-best of 44 workouts over a track Motion said was deep. With regular rider Ramon Dominguez injured, leading rider Eibar Coa will be aboard Alternate.

American Freedom drops off win

American Freedom comes into the $50,000 Lincroft Handicap for Jersey-breds on the turf Sunday with a three-race winning streak. A versatile 4-year-old trained by Jamie Woodington, American Freedom has one turf win in open company in that stretch, and the drop into the statebred ranks should make him tough in a full field of 11.

The Lincroft, at one-mile on the grass, is the only restricted statebred turf race carded at Monmouth.

American Freedom started the meet with a third-place finish in a turf allowance behind stakes winner Autonomy, and has since reeled off three wins, with a turf victory sandwiched between two main track wins. While most starters lack turf experience, American Freedom has enjoyed the surface change nicely since making his first turf start in the fall at The Meadowlands.

Beknown to Me won the Lincroft last year when it was taken off the turf, but the forecast does not call for rain and he is winless in two turf starts. Dixie Two Thousand won six in a row to start his career last year as a 3-year-old, and could be tough if he can take to turf and two turns for the first time. His entrymate Catechol is a solid turf horse and will also enjoy the drop into statebred ranks.

Alvarado returns from injury

Jockey Roberto Alvarado returned to the races on Friday after being sidelined for nearly eight weeks over breaking his left hand.

In his sole mount, aboard Keytotheuniverse for trainer Faustino Ramos in the third race, Alvarado ran fifth.

Alvarado has been plagued by injuries this meet, missing the first two weeks of the meet because of a torn rotator cuff and slight fracture of the eighth vertebrate in a spill at Philadelphia Park May 4. After returning from the first injury, Alvarado won seven races in 63 starts before suffering the most recent injury on June 16.

Yet with four weeks remaining in the meet, Alvarado said he is hoping to regain some lost business and pick up steam heading into The Meadowlands.

"I'm ready," Alvarado said Friday. "Everything's going well so far and everybody's happy to see me back."

Alvarado said the rehab for his hand was not strenuous, but the main thing was staying in top physical shape. Having breezed horses for four days since being cleared to resume riding, Alvarado said his first mount back was like he hadn't missed a beat.

"It felt normal," he said. "I even feel stronger and more aggressive."

Alvarado, sixth in the jockey standings last year, injured his hand while washing his Ford Expedition the morning of June 16. He had climbed on the wheel to wash the windshield and slipped and injured the hand. An MRI revealed the broken bone on the top of the hand.

Skipper's Mate Delaware-bound

Skipper's Mate, third in the $50,000 Colleen Stakes for 2-year-old fillies here Aug. 3, will make her next start in a six-furlong entry-level allowance at Delaware Park next Sunday, trainer Eddie Gaudet said Friday.

Skipper's Mate won her maiden here July 17 by four lengths and then was beaten a nose for second in the Colleen, 11 lengths back of impressive winner Forever Partners. Gaudet said Skipper's Mate has come out of the Colleen very strongly.

"This cold weather has really helped her," Gaudet said. "She's getting mean now."

Since Skipper's Mate is a Maryland-bred, Gaudet said he will point her to the string of 2-year-old filly statebred stakes at Laurel Park in the fall and winter, with the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes on Christmas Eve as a long-term goal.

"I want to save her and keep her fresh for the Maryland-bred stakes down the road," he said.