Alternation was allowed to take the lead heading into the first turn and never relinquished it, defeating 11-10 favorite Tapizar in the $125,000 Razorback Stakes (gr. III) March 10 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).
The 1 1/2-length win for Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable homebred was the second victory of the meet for Alternation, who won the Essex Handicap impressively Feb. 4. Donnie K. Von Hemel trains the 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor out of the Seattle Slew mare Alternate.
Ridden by Luis Quinonez, Alternation, along the inside, was able to dictate the pace as Corey Nakatani settled Tapizar on their outside. Alternation set a controlled tempo while carving fractions of :23.62, :47.13, and 1:11.88. Quinonez floated Alternation out leaving the final turn and the 13-10 second choice had Tapizar's measure through the lane while edging away to a 1 1/2-length lead that he maintained to the wire.
The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile test was 1:43.50 over a fast track.
“This race developed like I hoped it would," Quinonez said. "He broke sharp, he put me there and just kept on going. He’s a nice horse. He’s my favorite horse."
Tapizar, after being in tight at the start, was in position all the way but could not get to the winner while 5 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Color Me Blue, ridden by Israel Ocampo.
Win Willy, making his first start since winning last year's Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) trailed the six-horse field all the way.
This was the second graded stakes win for Alternation. He won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park last May following a fifth-place finish in Oaklawn's Arkansas Derby (gr. I). He began the year with a 3 1/2-length win in the Essex. The dark bay/brown colt has won six of 11 lifetime races with earnings of $480,004.
Von Hemel credited a switch to blinkers with helping Alternation reach the potential he flashed as a 3-year-old.
"When we saw there wasn’t much of a pace in here, we wanted to see if we could ask him to be close knowing that Tapizar was the only speed," he said. "Then we get to the first turn and we’re in front, so you’re not going to change now. I’m just glad we were able to seize the opportunity, and it’s great to know he’s developed this versatility. He’s shown that he’s not just a deep closer. People will have to respect him because he can take advantage of a race when it presents itself.”
Alternation carried 120 pounds to victory and paid $4.60, $2.80, $2.40. Tapizar, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 4 for trainer Steve Asmussen, returned $2.80 and $2.60 and rounded out a $9.40 exacta. Color Me Blue, runner-up in the Essex, paid $3.80 to show.
Shraded Edge, defending Razorback winner It Happened Again, and Win Willy followed.