alternate, alternation, belmont park, Belmont Stakes, breeding to race, classic breeding, clifford barry, distorted humor, josephine abercrombie, Kentucky Derby, maria's mon, monarchos, nijinsky, peaks and valleys, peter pan stakes, pin oak stud, Seattle Slew, sky classic, strike a balance, super saver
The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont has traditionally been an important prep for the Belmont Stakes, and this year’s winner, the highly regarded colt Alternation, may take a role in the classic. If so, the colt would present an opportunity for his owner-breeder, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud, to win its first classic.
Pin Oak’s general manager Clifford Barry sounded conservative about that option. He said, “Ms. Abercrombie is very patient, doesn’t push them, and the classic races are early enough that the horses have to jump through a lot of hoops to get to those races. She likes them to have long careers if they can.
“She will tell you, ‘I’m in this game to race them.’ She loves breeding her horses and taking them to the races. That makes it all the more gratifying to have one like Alternation turn up with the potential to be a nice runner.”
Whether in the classics or not, the prospects for the first two home in Saturday’s renewal of the Grade 2 Peter Pan are bright. They are lightly raced and improving colts, and Alternation won by a head from favored Adios Charlie (by Indian Charlie).
Alternation is a powerfully made dark bay son of Distorted Humor (also the sire of last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer) out of the Seattle Slew mare Alternate. The latter is one of the last stakes winners by her sire, produced when he was 25, and is one of two stakes winners out of the important producer Strike a Balance (by Green Dancer).
This is one of Pin Oak’s most famous and important families, and Alternate is now the fourth daughter of Strike a Balance who has produced a graded stakes winner.
Strike a Balance’s most famous offspring is Canadian Horse of the Year Peaks and Valleys, who was bred and raced by Pin Oak Stud, like Alternate and Alternation. Peaks and Valleys (Mt. Livermore) won twice at the Grade 1 level and earned more than $1.5 million. It took a racehorse the caliber of this champion son of Mt. Livermore to make Alternate the “other” stakes winner out of their dam.
Alternate was a listed stakes winner at 3, 4, and 5, while she was second or third in five graded stakes and earned $550,695. She was a heck of a listed stakes winner.
Retired to the paddocks at Pin Oak, Alternate has not disappointed. Her first foal is the Elusive Quality filly Elision, who has earned $203,651 without picking up black type. Barry said, “Elision was a very nice filly who went through her conditions and might have been a stakes horse but for injuring an ankle. She is in foal to Sky Mesa.”
The mare’s second foal is the winner Take Turns (Seeking the Gold), and Alternation is her third.
Barry said Alternate is a “great big Seattle Slew type of mare. Alternation is a big strong physical, with a lovely hindleg, and is a nice prospect in the making. Obviously, the first thing is to enjoy the victory on Saturday, then make sure the horse comes out of it all right. Then, we’ll watch the Preakness and see where it all unfolds. We wouldn’t rule out the Belmont, but we hope to see him in the nice races later in the year, the Jim Dandy, Travers, and so forth.”
This is the balanced and conscientious attitude of an owner-breeder operation that wants its stock to show their best when the time is right. Among the considerations for any horse being evaluated as a possible runner for the Belmont Stakes is its distance capabilities, but Barry noted that the “mare could run long, and I don’t think distance will be an impediment.”
If Alternation does challenge for the Belmont Stakes, he could become the first classic winner campaigned by Pin Oak. The farm bred 1976 Preakness winner Elocutionist and the 1982 Doncaster St. Leger winner Touching Wood, but neither raced for the farm.
In addition to those, Pin Oak bred and raced Laugh and Be Merry, the 1990 Eclipse Award winner as best grass mare, and the 1992 champion turf horse Sky Classic in partnership with breeder Sam-Son Farm.
Pin Oak stands Sky Classic (one of the last important sons of Nijinsky still at stud), as well as their homebred G2 winner Broken Vow, and the farm also stood Maria’s Mon, the sire of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, till the stallion’s death at age 14 in September 2007.