Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel rolled out his barn’s top runners on successive mornings at Oaklawn Park with a pair of them firing bullet works as the fastest of the morning at their distance. The Michael Lauer-trained Scatman stretched his legs March 29 in his first serious work since a third-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II).
The star parade began March 27 when Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Caleb's Posse drilled five furlongs in :59 4/5 in preparation for the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 7. The next morning the Von Hemel-trained graded-stakes placed Hearts on Fire went a half-mile in :48 4/5 with a possible start in the Carousel Stakes or the Redbud Stakes on her agenda April 12 during Oaklawn’s Racing Festival of the South.
Razorback Handicap (gr. III) winner Alternation breezed March 29, going five furlongs in 1:00 2/5. His time was the third-fastest of the morning as he aims for his third stakes win this season in the April 14 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).
Caleb’s Posse’s work was for maintenance, according to Von Hemel. The son of Posse was second in the six-furlong Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) in his seasonal debut. The Carter adds another furlong as well as stiffer competition for the Cheyenne Stable and McNeil Stables’ color-bearer.
“In this work, we knew he needed to do something pretty good and we got it,” Von Hemel said. “We don’t need any more speed works from him at this point.”
Nolan Creek Farm’s Hearts On Fire is trying to bounce back from a third-place finish in a stakes-caliber allowance March 15 at 1 1/16 miles. Prior to that, she finished fourth while sprinting in the Spring Fever Stakes. The $75,000 Carousel offers another chance to sprint while the $100,000 Redbud on the same card is at 1 1/16 miles. Depending on weight assignments, the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) could also be an option for the 4-year-old daughter of Lion Heart.
Alternation’s work pleased Von Hemel with the way it unfolded.
“I was happy with it because he probably started off going about :25 for the first quarter but was really picking it up down the lane,” he said of the Pin Oak Stable runner. “He was wearing blinkers, but he was still nice and relaxed. That was the test this morning. To see if he could stay relaxed until we asked him.”
JEOG Racing’s Scatman breezed four furlongs in :49 flat, the third-fastest move of 13 workers at the distance. The homebred son of Scat Daddy —Hit I Here Café, by Grand Slam, has finished behind Secret Circle in his last two starts after setting the pace. He was second, beaten a half-length in the second division of the Feb. 20 Southwest Stakes (gr. III), then was third behind Secert Circle and the late-running Optimizer in the Rebel.