Alternation shocked a strong field in the $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) April 14 on closing day at Oaklawn Park, leading all the way for his third consecutive stakes win of the meet (VIDEO).
The Oaklawn favoring 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt won for the fifth time in six lifetime starts over the track. Ridden by Luis Quinonez, Alternation was 2 1/2 lengths clear as the 7-2 fourth choice in a field of eight.
Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Ron the Greek, the 5-2 favorite, fought through traffic in the stretch to get up for second. He finished a half-length better than Yawanna Twist, with Donn Handicap (gr.I) winner Hymn Book fourth. The final time was on the slow side at 1:49.94.
Pin Oak Stable's homebred Alternation was coming off a front-running victory in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) March 10 and used similar tactics in the Oaklawn. After an even beginning, he put the field to sleep while racing a bit off the rail and clipping off modest quarter-mile fractions of :23.91, :48.30, and 1:12.59.
Challenged by Yawanna Twist and 60-1 shot Stachys into the stretch, Alternation responded when set down for the drive by Quinonez and had plenty left, drawing off late to win convincingly.
“Goodness, I don’t think you can measure how satisfying this is," said winning trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. "It’s a race that I’ve been second in, hit the board in, and it was always an out-of-town horse that won it. To have a horse that got the job done is all because of Pin Oak and their breeding program.
"We knew this was a crossroads race for him. Now, we know we can look at races like the Pimlico Special (gr. I), the Stephen Foster (gr. I), or maybe something in New York.”
Alternation, a dark bay/brown colt out of the Seattle Slew mare Alternate, began the Oaklawn meet with a 3 1/2-length score in the Essex Handicap.
“We had a dream trip," said Quinonez, Alternation's regular rider this season. "He did everything I asked him to. Donnie and his team had him ready and have done a great job with him. What the horse did today was awesome and he has been awesome every race this year. I couldn’t be more proud."
Ron the Greek, rallying from sixth off the turn for Jose Lezcano, ran into traffic in the lane but finished up well after finding room to the outside in the final furlong.
"He ran very good but the pace went a little slow and when he was going :48 in the front, my horse couldn't close into that even though he came with a second kick," Lezcano said of the favorite.
Yawanna Twist, always in contention for Mike Luzzi, was wide coming off the turn and could not match the winner in the stretch. Defending Oaklawn Handicap winner Win Willy finished seventh.
Alternation won for the seventh time in 12 lifetime starts. Earning $240,000 for the victory, he extended his career purse total to $720,004 for owner Josephine Abercrombie. As a 3-year-old last year Alternation finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) before winning the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
“I’m so excited," Abercrombie said. "I’m over the moon. This is all because of Donnie K.”
Carrying 117 pounds, Alternation paid $9.20, $4.60, $3.40. Ron the Greek, returning to action for trainer Bill Mott after his 3 1/2-length score in the Big 'Cap, returned $3.80 and $3.20 and completed a $34.20 exacta. Yawanna Twist, winner of the General George Handicap (gr. II) in his most recent start for trainer John Parisella, was $5.80 to show.
Hymn Book was three-quarters of a length back in fourth, followed by Stachys, morning line favorite Nehro, Win Willy, and Don Dulce.