05/11/2011 3:27PM

Belmont Park: Peter Pan the next step for Alternation


ELMONT, N.Y. – Alternation’s road to the Kentucky Derby was derailed in Arkansas, where he had to be scratched out of the Rebel Stakes in March and where a slow start compromised his chances in the Arkansas Derby.

Rather than try to force him into the Preakness Stakes, Alternation’s connections have opted for a more conservative route by entering him in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes. While the Peter Pan is considered a prep for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 11, trainer Donnie Von Hemel and Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable have a one-track mind right now.

“I think I just want to try and run good in the Peter Pan,” Von Hemel said Wednesday from South Carolina, where he was inspecting some 2-year-olds. “If we have some decisions to make afterward we will, but right now we just want to focus on the Peter Pan.”

Alternation drew post 6 in the Peter Pan, a 1 1/8-mile race that drew a field of 11. Only five of the 11 3-year-olds entered in the Peter Pan are nominated to the Triple Crown, making this less of a Belmont prep than perhaps it has been in years past.

Alternation, who is nominated to the Triple Crown, won three consecutive races from Dec. 9 through Feb. 21 and was a wise-guy horse entering the Rebel Stakes in March. But the horse acted up in the starting gate and was scratched. Von Hemel said that Alternation may have gotten worked up by the large crowd that was at Oaklawn that day, some of whom were in the infield near where the horses were saddled.

Alternation was uninjured in that starting gate episode and returned in the Arkansas Derby, where a slow start left him 18 lengths back. He did close down the center of the track, but finished fifth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Archarcharch. Nehro, who was beaten a neck in the Arkansas Derby, came back to run second in the Kentucky Derby.

“He just got too far back that day,” Von Hemel said of the Arkansas Derby. “They had trouble loading the horse next to him, he got off slow and he lost contact the first part of the race. He did make a good run in the end to get fifth.”

Ramon Dominguez will replace Luis Quinonez aboard Alternation and break from post 6. The field, from the rail out is: Isn’t He Perfect (Jaime Rodriguez), Uncle Brent (John Velazquez), Beer Meister (Alex Solis), Prime Cut (Edgar Prado), Tap Attack (Eddie Castro), Alternation (Dominguez), Bold Deed (Channing Hill), Adios Charlie (Rajiv Maragh), Newsdad (Alan Garcia) Joe Vann (Javier Castellano), and Monzon (Jose Lezcano).