“My top dark horse right now. Breeding is great, and I love the way he looks down the stretch of his races. Acid test should come in the Rebel.”
I wrote those words regarding Alternation back in February. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for that horse, at the time I considered to be a major threat to surprise and run big in the Kentucky Derby, to make a good run. He never made it to the Kentucky Derby, but nearly three months later, today was finally the day for that good run.
Making a sustained and powerful rally on the outside, the son of Distorted Humor circled horses on the turn and ran down the determined favorite, Adios Charlie, in the final strides of the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes this afternoon at Belmont Park.
The win, his 4th in 6 lifetime starts, marks the first stakes victory for the Donnie Von Hemel trained chestnut, and it follows a rather bumpy Derby trail for the promising youngster.
The Rebel Stakes was supposed to be his initial foray into stakes racing. It instead almost turned disastrous. Entering the Oaklawn Park starting gate was the closest he would get to running. The starting gate can sometimes be a scary place for a hot-blooded thoroughbred, and Alternation made that fact a scary reality. A full-fledged freak-out caused him to flip in the starting gate. Thankfully he escaped the situation without major injuries.
Sporting only scrapes and bruises, he was deemed ready in time to make his stakes debut in the million dollar Arkansas Derby a few weeks later. A tough spot to make his stakes debut for sure, but his connections obviously had faith in their charge. That day he broke out of the gate slowly and was well behind in last for a big chunk of the race. He did flash his talent to make a solid rally, but it would only carry him from 13th to 5th at the finish. With a few good works at my home track of Arlington Park in the interim, the Peter Pan looked like a good spot for his continued maturation. And so it was.
Today Alternation rated well off moderate early fractions after stumbling slightly at the start. As Adios Charlie spurted clear of the pacesetters early in the lane, it was clear that only one horse had a chance to catch him, and catch him Alternation would. Under a well-timed ride by Ramon Dominguez, he needed every inch of his powerful rally to hit the wire just ahead of the still strong Adios Charlie. The two left the rest of the deep field well behind, with Prime Cut proving third best. The time for the one-turn, nine furlong test was 1:49.53, and the winner paid $9.40 to his happy backers.
What’s next for the grandson of Seattle Slew? The third and final leg of racing’s Triple Crown would be the obvious answer. Off today’s performance, you would have to say Alternation earned a berth into next month’s Belmont Stakes. Yes, I still like him.