Monday, May 16, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: Peter Pan Wrap-up

--Brian DiDonato

Alternation validated his “TDN Rising Star” status with a solid score over Adios Charlie in the Peter Pan. As expected, he was significantly closer to the pace with Ramon Dominguez aboard behind fractions that were a bit slower than anticipated--the pace was fair/neutral. Alternation received a 94 Beyer figure for the narrow victory, which normally wouldn’t be much to get excited about, but in this crop and considering his next objective, the number is plenty high enough. The logical next start for the Pin Oak homebred is obviously the Belmont, and while trainer Donnie Von Hemel would not yet commit, it would be surprising to see Alternation bypass that spot if he’s healthy. The “Test of the Champion” is a race perfectly suited to Alternation. He’s a large, grinder type who figures to run for as long as he’s asked. He isn’t brilliant and hasn’t displayed the same sort of ability as Animal Kingdom or Nehro, but steady, workmanlike staying power is often what gets the blanket of white carnations. Alternation also has freshness working in his favor. If Animal Kingdom comes into the Belmont with a chance to make history, he’ll have to face a new shooter with a lot more left in the tank. 

Alternation (outside) wears down Adios Charlie
(c) Jessie Holmes/EquiSport
Adios Charlie ran an admirable race in defeat, and probably proved that trainer and co-owner Stan Hough’s distance concerns were warranted. He seemed to tire just enough to let stouter Alternation get by, and looks like he might top out at slightly shorter distances. He ran well enough to win plenty of upcoming 3-year-old races at nine furlongs, however, and it will be interesting to see where he resurfaces. Maybe he’ll come back in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens on Belmont day. It’s a shame the Met Mile is coming up so quickly, because it would be a good, albeit slightly ambitious spot. He should handle turf as well--at least based on his female family--so perhaps he’ll get a try on the green at some point. Monzon didn’t really have any excuses. He was far back and looked to be making a move on the turn, but flattened out late. The only way his Count Fleet could have been fraudulent was if it was an inner track special, so I’m inclined to believe that the nine furlongs dulled his kick. He’s like Adios Charlie in that he’s stuck between sprints and longer routes, but he’s got a turfy-looking pedigree, so maybe he’ll be switched to the lawn.

Speed Ring was bet off the board at Woodbine on Sunday, but finished third. He ran very wide and without cover throughout, and made a sweeping turn move before flattening. According to the Trakus data, he traveled 21 feet more than the winner--which equates to about 2 1/2 lengths--putting him one length behind the victor. With the added toll that running with a lack of cover takes on a runner, the argument can be made that Speed Ring put in a better performance than the winner. His champion dam Catch The Ring took four starts to graduate, and as a son of A.P. Indy you’d expect him to be a slow starter, so I’m not willing to give up on him yet. The Queen’s Plate is coming up too quickly, but he still has a chance to make an impact in the second or third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown (it hasn’t taken much in recent years) if he finds his way. Red Ace couldn’t have run any poorer at Churchill Downs. It’s very possible that he hated the slop, and he might also need to be turned back. His form might be dirtied-up enough to get a nice price on him next time if he sprints.

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