11/14/2008 1:00AM

Nistle's Crunch big hit for doctor-lawyer team


The explosive turn of foot Nistle's Crunch produced at the end of the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 9 was, well, out of this world.

Owned and bred by Alien Farms LLC, Nistle's Crunch had a beautiful trip early in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, but then was blocked and steadied under Robby Albarado. Nistle's Crunch rapidly made up the lost ground and cruised in the final yards to win by a half-length.

A New Jersey-bred 3-year-old colt, Nistle's Crunch got his first stakes win in the Commonwealth. It's been a career full of promise, growing since his trainer, Ken McPeek, suggested that his breeders might not want to let the colt go as a youngster.

Alien Farms offered Nistle's Crunch at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale, but he was a $55,000 buy-back.

Alien Farms is the nom de course for Michael Harrison and Alan Furst.

"We decided that unless we were to get a really good price, we wouldn't sell him," said Harrison. "We got him back."

Harrison, an attorney, and Furst, a physician whose office is basically right next door to that of Harrison's in Denville, N.J., have had horses together for about 15 years. Success came with the first horse they raced, a filly they purchased as a 2-year-old named Alien Strike. She made the business seem easy, winning at 2 and later becoming a stakes winner while earning $153,749. Alien Farms LLC is named in honor of Alien Strike.

The partners claimed Nistle's Crunch's second dam, Sammy Ammy, in her 2-year-old season for $32,000 in July 1996. A daughter of Henbane, "she was a decent race horse," according to Harrison, and immediately became a successful broodmare.

The first foal bred by the partners out of Sammy Ammy was Sam Eye Am, a winner at 2, stakes winner at 3, and earner of $127,695. Upon Sam Eye Am's retirement, Harrison chose the young Storm Cat stallion Van Nistelrooy to breed to her.

"He has great conformation, which was proven as a [$6.4 million] sales yearling, could run and is impeccably bred," said Harrison of Van Nistelrooy, who stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky. "And he was standing for $7,500 at the time."

Harrison sent both Sam Eye Am and Sammy Ammy to Van Nistelrooy in 2004. The resulting foals born at Walnford Stud in Allentown, N.J., were Nistle's Crunch and the filly Sammy Van Ammy, and both are stakes horses.

Nistle's Crunch won for the first time in his second start at 2, in a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight over Keeneland's synthetic track. He was never worse than third in four outings during his juvenile campaign, which included a third-place finish in Santa Anita's Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf.

Nominated to the Triple Crown, Nistle's Crunch was shipped to Gulfstream Park for the winter, where he won 1 1/8-mile allowance on the main track before facing Big Brown in the Florida Derby. Showing more speed than his custom that day, he faded to finish seventh, 19 lengths behind the eventual Derby champion.

Back on the turf, Nistle's Crunch turned in solid efforts during the spring and summer. He finished second or third in Grade 3 contests at Colonial Downs (Colonial Turf Cup), Saratoga (Saranac Stakes) and Churchill Downs (Crown Royal American Turf Stakes). In August, Nistle's Crunch took another stab at Big Brown, winding up fifth in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Nistle's Crunch got his first stakes win in his 10th start of the year. With his fourth victory, he boosted his career earnings to $356,251.

Alien Farm LLC no longer owns any broodmares, having sold Sam Eye Am for $50,000 in foal to Officer at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2006. The mare was exported to Korea.

Nistle's Crunch's 2-year-old half-sister, Pascal's Paradox, should be ready to run in Alien Farm's colors in the next few months, said Harrison. Pascal's Paradox, by Monashee Mountain, is unraced.

Harrison, the current president of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey, a position he will relinquish when his term expires at the end of the year, owns horses in other partnerships, most notably the multiple Grade 1-placed filly A to the Croft. But his broodmare holdings have been cut back in recent years.

Two mares Harrison still owns are Ghost Bell, the dam of 2008 stakes winner Monsoor in foal to Lion Heart, and Miss What a Day, currently in foal to Van Nistelrooy.