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Belmont Park: Alternation will be considered for Belmont Stakes
ELMONT, N.Y. – Alternation, the determined head winner of Saturday’s Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, was expected to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday morning, and his connections will wait for at least a week before they decide whether to ship the horse back to New York for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 11.
“It’s something certainly to consider, I think we’ll probably watch the Preakness with great interest then probably sometime in the middle of next week try to come up with the plan,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Monday morning by phone from Chicago.
Von Hemel believes Alternation’s narrow victory over Jerome Stakes winner Adios Charlie in the Peter Pan proves that his horse belongs mentioned in the upper echelon of the 3-year-old division. Von Hemel would like to run Alternation in races such as the Jim Dandy or Haskell and Travers later this year and needs to determine if running in the Belmont fits in that schedule.
“Of course, the Belmont is certainly a race of great stature, if you think you can win it, you got to throw that in the mix, too,” Von Hemel said. “We’ll probably just give some thought next week on whether we can do something in the Belmont with those big 3-year-old races later in the year hopefully within our sights.”
Von Hemel does not believe the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes would be a problem for Alternation, a son of Distorted Humor out of the Seattle Slew mare Alternate, who won the Robert G. Dick Memorial, a 1 3/8-mile turf race, twice.
“The mile and a half has not bothered me all year,” Von Hemel said. “He strikes me as a horse that can do that. His pedigree is good enough that he can do that; his dam was a winner a couple of times at a mile and three-eighths. He’s got one of those strides that he’s going to be able to do it.”
Von Hemel said he would have shipped Alternation back to Arlington Park win or lose Saturday. The horse was scheduled to have a one-night stopover at owner Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud before continuing on by van to Chicago.
Alternation ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.53 and earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
Adios Charlie, who is not Triple Crown nominated, ran a solid race to be second and will most likely be pointed to races such as the Dwyer, Jim Dandy, or Haskell.
Prime Cut, the Peter Pan third-place finisher, shipped back to Churchill Downs, but trainer Neil Howard said “we wouldn’t rule out running in the Belmont.”
Drosselmeyer wins Brooklyn prep
Speaking of the Belmont Stakes, last year’s Belmont winner, Drosselmeyer, put in a gritty effort to prevail by a neck over stablemate Birdrun in Sunday’s $60,000 One Count Stakes going 1 1/4 miles. The win was Drosselmeyer’s first since his Belmont victory 11 months ago. That gives him the distinction of being the first Belmont Stakes winner to win a race in their 4-year-old year since Lemon Drop Kid won four graded stakes in 2000 after winning the 1999 Belmont.
One of Lemon Drop Kid’s wins came in the Brooklyn, which back in 2000 was worth $250,000 and run at 1 1/8 miles. Now, it’s worth $150,000 and run at 1 1/2 miles. The Brooklyn remains a Grade 2.
Drosselmeyer, under Jose Lezcano, prevailed in the One Count over his stablemate, Birdrun, who had set leisurely fractions under Rajiv Maragh and was spotting Drosselmeyer four pounds.
“I was proud of both horses,” said Bill Mott, who trains Drosselmeyer for WinStar Farm. “It was good to see Drosselmeyer back.”
Naughty New Yorker back on track
The 9-year-old Naughty New Yorker, an 11-time stakes winner and million-dollar earner, is back in training at Belmont Park with trainer Pat Kelly.
Last Friday, he breezed four furlongs in 48.69 seconds over Belmont’s main track. Prior to that, he had two breezes at a training center in Kentucky.
“He looks good for an old fart,” Kelly said. “Literally, we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Naughty New Yorker’s owner, Peter Schiff, attempted to sell Naughty New Yorker as stallion prospect but could not find any takers. A New York-bred son of Quiet American, Naughty New Yorker has won 12 of 65 starts and earned more than $1 million. In 2006, he won the Grade 3 Red Smith, which was taken off the turf. His other stakes wins came against New York-bred competition.
Kelly said that he will get Naughty New Yorker fit before he starts to think about running him, but added that he is not under pressure to get him back to the races.
“If it doesn’t work out, then we’ll try to find him a home around here somewhere in New York,” Kelly said.
Naughty New Yorker has lost his last 24 starts, since he won the Master Digby Stakes on Feb. 18, 2008.
Toner’s terrific time on turf
While his best turf filly, Winter Memories, waits for her next start in two weeks, trainer Jimmy Toner still had enough ammunition to find the winner’s circle three times last week with some well-bred grass fillies.
On May 11, Toner won a second-level allowance race with La Cloche, a 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper out of the Toner-trained multiple Grade 1-winning mare Memories of Silver. On Friday, Toner won the Glia Stakes with Much Rejoicing, a daughter of Distorted Humor out of Toner-trained champion turf mare Soaring Softly. On Sunday, Toner ran 1-2 in a maiden turf race with the 3-year-old fillies Sunlight Sonata and Immaculate Cat.
Much Rejoicing could be a candidate for the Grade 1 Just a Game on June 11. Despite her turf pedigree, Much Rejoicing was making her first start on grass last week in her eighth start. Toner tried to get on the grass last year, but couldn’t find the proper allowance race. He had her in a turf race at Gulfstream in March, but that race came off the turf and Much Rejoicing won it anyway, by eight lengths.
Toner had not yet mapped out plans for La Cloche or Sunlight Sonata. Immaculate Cat, a daughter of Storm Cat owned by Bobby Flay, figures to be tough in whatever maiden race Toner finds for her next.
As for Winter Memories, a two-time Grade 3 stakes winner from four starts, she breezed a slow half-mile in 51.04 seconds over the Belmont Park turf on Sunday in preparation for the Sands Point Stakes here May 30.
“It was a little slower than I wanted, they had the dogs [traffic cones] so far outside you can only do so much with them,” Toner said. “But we’ll come back and have another breeze this weekend. She’s right on, she’s doing well.”
Gio Ponti targeting Manhattan
Gio Ponti, the two-time champion male turf horse, worked four furlongs in 49.55 over the inner turf course Saturday, his first breeze since finishing fifth, beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the Dubai World Cup on March 26. He is targeting the Grade 1 Manhattan here on Belmont Stakes Day, according to trainer Christophe Clement.
“His flesh looks very well, he looks happy, it’s time to bring him back,” Clement said.
Last year, Gio Ponti returned from a fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup to run second to stablemate Winchester in the Manhattan. Winchester has recently returned to training following a popped splintbone that kept him out of the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April.
Meanwhile Clement has another budding turf star in Right One, who won his second straight U.S. race after running previously in Europe. Right One took the Island Sun Stakes by two lengths here May 12 and will likely be pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Poker Handicap on June 10.