The Peter Pan among many highlights of recently-retired Tom Albertrani
May 9, 2024
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The Peter Pan among many highlights of recently-retired Tom Albertrani

by Christian Abdo

Recently retired trainer Tom Albertrani enjoyed some of his most memorable moments in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park, sending out Oratory for a stakes-record setting performance of 1:46.35 in 2005 and Freedom Child to a 13 1/4-length victory in 2013.

On Saturday, a talented field will line up for the 70th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan, a nine-furlong test for sophomores at Belmont at the Big A. The Peter Pan is the traditional prep for the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets to be contested at 1 1/4-miles on Saturday, June 8 at Saratoga Race Course.

Albertrani, a 66-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., retired in April. He was a jockey in New York from 1977-1982, and served as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before heading overseas to work for Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin in the United Arab Emirates from 1995 until returning to the United States in 2003.

In the early stages, Albertrani did much of his training for Darley Stable, Godolphin’s U.S. operation, and said campaigning its Champion 3-Year-Old Bernardini to six wins from eight starts in 2006 stands out on his resume.

“Naturally, it is Bernardini who sticks out, winning the [G1] Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, the [G1] Travers, [G2] Jim Dandy,” said Albertrani, who also saddled Bernardini to win that year’s Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. “I always wanted to try and win those races, especially in New York.”

While he attributes much of his success to Bernardini, Albertrani also appreciated the talents of the Darley-owned Oratory, who helped set the stage one year earlier in the Peter Pan and promoted his barn to the public.

“I was getting more outside clients after Oratory,” said Albertrani, whose first Grade 1-winner was Balletto in the 2004 Frizette. “Oratory was about that time when I came back to the states and had a couple of nice horses in the barn. I was fortunate to have him running well to get attention from the outside.”

Bred in Kentucky by Louie Roussel, III, Oratory, by Pulpit, was the second foal out of the 8-for-12 multiple stakes-winning Dehere mare Arrested Dreams, who placed in the Grade 1 Matron in 1998 at Belmont Park. His second dam, Moment to Buy, won 10-of-18 starts including the Grade 1 Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood Park and Grade 3 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar.

Oratory debuted as a sophomore in January 2005 in a six-furlong maiden tilt at Aqueduct Racetrack, beaten a neck by the more experienced Suny’s Boy. He graduated one month later in a local one-mile maiden tilt, before a rallying score at the same distance in April over next-out stakes-winner Hal’s Image.

The performance earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, which he equaled next out at nine-furlongs with place-honors after traveling wide around both turns en route to his first graded stakes attempt in the Peter Pan, then a Grade 2.

“He was able to win a couple of nice races and help get my career started with Bernardini. I do remember the race, he ran an impressive race that day,” Albertrani said, almost 19 years later.

Piloted by Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, Oratory broke sharply in the Peter Pan, leading the eight-horse field by 1 1/2-lengths after a quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds over the fast Belmont dirt. He was reeled in early by eventual multiple graded-stakes placed Reverberate, who put a head in front through splits of 47.44 and 1:11.19.

Oratory would not take the challenge lightly, surging back to the front to establish a 2 1/2-length lead by the stretch call. As Bailey showed him the crop, Oratory drew off to a 4 3/4-length score in a blistering final time of 1:46.35, the stakes-record time at the nine-furlong distance which was awarded a 114 Beyer.

According to the BloodHorse, Oratory, “knocked three ticks off the stakes mark of 1:46 4/5 established in 1983 by Slew o' Gold and was four-fifths of a second off Secretariat's track record set on September 15, 1973 in the now defunct Marlboro Cup.”

By 2013, Albertrani’s clientele had expanded and he had high expectations for Freedom Child, a $350,000 Malibu Moon chestnut owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable, and Spendthrift Farm.

The ridgling ran into stiff competition early, including second-time out when defeated two lengths by future Grade 1 Kentucky Derby-winner Orb when traveling one mile at Aqueduct Racetrack. Freedom Child was able to graduate at fourth asking at nine-furlongs in March at Gulfstream Park before trying that distance in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial one month later back at Aqueduct, where he was declared a non-starter after the gates opened as he was loading into the outermost post 10.

“The thing I remember best about Freedom Child was his Wood Memorial. The starter actually held onto his head leaving the gate and he lost. That was really, really something,” Albertrani said, with a laugh. “I guess it worked out well going into the Peter Pan, which was his next start.”

Freedom Child experienced a much-improved start in the Peter Pan, breaking from the inside post under Luis Saez, who took him to the front early. He established a one-length advantage over graded stakes-placed My Name Is Michael after a quarter-mile in 23.51 over a sloppy and sealed Big Sandy.

Freedom Child’s cushion extended to two lengths after a half-mile in 46.67, then to four lengths through three-quarters in 1:10.98. Around the turn, Freedom Child truly did get free, jumping to a 10-length lead by the stretch call going one mile in 1:35.95. He would stop the clock in 1:49.09, with 13 1/4 lengths back to runner-up Saint Vigeur, who exited the race to place in the Grade 2 Dwyer. The 13 1/4-length score set a modern stakes-record for widest margin of victory in the Peter Pan according to Equibase statistics which date to 1976.

“Freedom Child was in the mud, wire-to-wire,” Albertrani recalled. “I think he loved the slop, plus we had confidence in that horse. That is why we ran him in the Wood, we wanted to see him start and see where he would lead us after that.”

Freedom Child’s road led to the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, as many Peter Pan-winning connections would hope, where he’d go off as the mutuel third-choice of the 14-horse field behind Orb and Kentucky Derby-third place finisher Revolutionary. He finished off-the-board as the “Test of the Champion” went to Palace Malice.

While neither Oratory nor Freedom Child went on to capture the Belmont Stakes, the Peter Pan was plenty for their trainer.

“It’s always a great race to win. Especially when you win it multiple times, you really like to see that. I’ve had that happen to me in several other races in New York and Florida,” Albertrani said, whose best Belmont Stakes finish was a third with Grade 1-winner Brilliant Speed in 2011. “You need those kind of horses to promote yourself and get the attention of some good clients, and everything worked out well.”

Albertrani said he looks forward to spending time with friends and family in his retirement and hopes to have a chance to travel without a horse in tow.

“I had a great career. It was just time to call it a day,” said Albertrani.

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