Alumni Hall, a multiple graded stakes winner of more than $740,000 on the flat, will give steeplechasing a try this season for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
The 8-year-old briefly retired to stud but would not cover mares. His hurdle career is a long-term project, but Alumni Hall could show up in maiden hurdle races in late spring or early summer.
Owned by Will Farish, an NSA fixture in the 1970s and 1980s with standouts such as Thrice Worthy, Alumni Hall will try to return the familiar green and yellow silks to a steeplechase winner's circle. Sheppard won't predict greatness, but knows the son of A.P. Indy packs plenty of talent in his chestnut frame.
"It's hard to argue with it, because he could be quite good," said the trainer. "It's a bit of a longshot in my mind, real early, but he's a fine looking horse – a big, scopey type."
Alumni Hall is on Sheppard's Pennsylvania farm jumping logs and embarking on prep work for his new career. Previously trained by Neil Howard, Alumni Hall won nine times on the flat, including grade III scores at Keeneland in the Ben Ali and Fayette stakes. The full brother to grade I-winning filly Secret Status didn't race until age 5. He campaigned three seasons before being retired for stud duty earlier this year.
"They said there's no physical reason why he isn't fertile, he just isn't interested," said Sheppard. "I asked if I could (geld) him, but they said no so he might go back and be a stallion someday."
Other flat standouts have made the transition to steeplechasing, including Hodges Bay, a millionaire on the flat for veteran trainer Mike Freeman, and Uptown Swell, a graded-stakes winner on the flat for Virginia Kraft Payson.
Alumni Hall isn't the only notable member of the 2007 freshman class. Tom Voss has Ten Cents A Shine, who finished eighth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), in training for owner Ken Ramsey. Now 7, he placed in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) as a 2-year-old .