● Alternative Route certainly has lived up to his name, as his final prep for the Queen's Plate came in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic over 1 1 /16 miles of yielding turf. "They'd taken all the other races off the turf that day," said trainer Al Stall Jr., who will be visiting Toronto for the first time. "The turf was a bog. The kid (jockey Mitchell Murrill) said the horse could barely stand up on it. But, he still finished fourth"
● Alternative Route had come into the Arlington Classic off a victory in Turfway Park's 1 1/16-mile Rushaway, his first start on a synthetic surface. "After that, I'd struggled to find a (Plate) prep for him," said Stall. "I looked at the Plate Trial but I didn't want to bring him up there, and back, with just three weeks between races. And, I wasn't comfortable leaving him there, either."
● Purchased for $265,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale, Alternative Route did not make it to the races until late last season.
● "He's a big, long-striding, galloping type of horse," said Stall. "With his pedigree, and the way he looked, we knew he wasn't going to be a 5 ½ furlong type of horse."
● Alternative Route debuted at a mile and 70 yards, then won an off-the-turf mile and was a troubled sixth over a mile and 70 in New Orleans. With an eye toward the Queen's Plate, a test on a synthetic surface beckoned.
● And while Alternative Route arrived on schedule in the Rushaway, his path to glory was not smooth. "He was very green; he was literally shying away from everything," said Stall. "His ears were straight forward, the whole way. But, he certainly took to the Poly."
● In the Arlington Classic, Alternative Route raced with blinkers for the first time and they will remain on for his big test on Saturday.
Owner – Spendthrift Farm LLC & Town and Country Racing LLC
California businessman B. (Bradley) Wayne Hughes bought historic 700-acre Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky in 2004. Hughes founded Public Storage back in the late 1970's and parlayed a $50,000 investment into a fortune. Hughes also created and supports the Parker Hughes Cancer Center in Minnesota. His best horse to date has been Beholder, winner of three Breeders' Cup races and four Eclipse Awards. Another top runner was Court Vision, successful in five Grade 1 races including the Woodbine Mile and Breeders' Cup Mile.
Town and Country Racing LLC is the racetrack arm of Town and Country Farm, a 320-acre spread located in Georgetown, Kentucky which has been in operation since 1974. Following success in the breeding barn and the auction ring, Town and Country expanded its scope. Stopcharging Maria, winner of the 2015 Breeders' Cup Distaff, has been their best runner to date.
Trainer – Al Stall Jr.
Al Stall Jr. was born in New Orleans on Oct. 10, 1961, with a rich horseracing pedigree as the son and grandson of Thoroughbred owners and breeders. His father, Al Stall Sr., was a longtime chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission and is a member of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame. The Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds is named in part for his grandfather.
After working with trainer Frank Brothers, who then ran Jack Van Berg's string at the Fair Grounds, during high school and college vacations, Stall completed his degree in geology and began a career with an oil exploration outfit. When that company was sold Stall returned to the racetrack, partnering with by now full-fledged trainer Brothers for five years before striking out on his own in 1991. His best horse to date has been Blame, winner of the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic and an Eclipse Award as champion older male.
Jockey – Mitchell Murrill
Murrill, a 23-year-old born in Mobile, Alabama, had never even ridden a horse until age 16. Now, Murrill finds himself in the sixth season of a solid career and regularly among the top riders at the Fair Grounds and Arlington Park.
During the school year, Murrill would exercise horses for local owners in Mobile County and then spent summers working at racetracks in Louisiana. After graduating high school in 2013, Murrill tried racing Quarter Horses in Louisiana but didn't find much success and returned home with the aim of following his father into an electrician's trade. But he kept exercising horses, and after about six months, longtime Louisiana-based jockey Gerard Melancon advised Murrill to try the Thoroughbreds.