Alternation won the 2012 Razorback Handicap.

Alternation won the 2012 Razorback Handicap.

Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park

Alternation Begins New Campaign in Razorback

Pin Oak Stable's handicap star draws far outside post in his bid for a repeat.

Alternation  drew the far outside post in a field of 10 for his attempt at a repeat victory in the $150,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) March 9 at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile main track event for older horses is part of a graded stakes doubleheader at the Arkansas track, sharing top billing with the $150,000 Honeybee (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies. The Razorback, which serves as a steppingstone to the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) April 13, goes as the ninth race on the card with a 5:09 CST probable post.

Alternation, a Pin Oak Stable homebred trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, rattled off consecutive wins in the Essex, Razorback, and Oaklawn handicaps last year, and also captured the Pimlico Special (gr. III) during a four-race win streak. The 5-year-old has been away from the races since last October, however, when he was last of sixth as the odds-on choice in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).

The dark bay horse by Distorted Humor  has been training forwardly for his return at Oaklawn, completing his work for the Razorback with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 3/5 March 2. It was the sixth-best of 56 workouts at the distance that day.

Alternation brings a record of 9-1-1 in 16 races into his 2013 debut, with earnings of $1,047,727. The 119-pound high weight will be ridden by his regular pilot, Luis Quinonez.

But Alternation faces a tough field here and may not be favored. Donoharm, trained by Bret Calhoun for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, presents a major challenge to Alternation's recent domination of the handicap division at Oaklawn. He has two stakes wins over the track this meet already, taking the Fifth Season Jan. 11 at 13-1 odds, and the Essex Feb. 2 at 7-1.

The 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid  gelding is on a five-race win streak going back to last August at Monmouth Park. Cliff Berry has the returne engagement on the Kentucky-bred, and they will break from gate 4 with 117 pounds.

Also at 117 is the Todd Pletcher-trained San Pablo , who was second in the Essex last time when caught late by Donoharm after opening a two-length lead in the stretch as the 3-5 pick. That spoiled a two-race win streak for the hard-knocking 5-year-old son of Jump Start , who was making his seasonal debut in the Essex.

San Pablo captured the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (gr. III) by 3 1/2 lengths at Monmouth Aug. 18 for owner Burning Sands Stable. Chris DeCarlo has the mount on San Pablo, who also drew a wide berth in gate 9.

A top 3-year-old from last year, Atigun, is also part of the Razorback field.

Shortleaf Stable's Atigun used an allowance win and a fifth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) as a springboard to greater success later in the year. The results included a third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and a third in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) to conclude his season last November.

Atigun returned to the races Feb. 15 in his first start since the Breeders' Cup, and finished third behind fellow Razorback runners Cyber Secret and Golden Ron as the favorite in a strong allowance heat going 1 1/16 miles.

"We think he'll improve off that last start," said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. "Obviously Lynn Whiting's horse (Cyber Secret) is the 'now' horse and Donoharm has turned out really strong. But we knew going in we weren't going to be firing our best bullet last time. We got what we wanted out of it and he's been training like he's ready to move forward for this."

Charles Cella's Cyber Secret brings back-to-back-wins over the track for Whiting into his first stakes appearance since finishing fifth in last year's Rebel Stakes (gr. II).

$150,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 5:09 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Golden Ron (KY), R A Vazquez, 111, M G Medrano
2. Atigun (KY), V Lebron, 116, K G McPeek
3. Cyber Secret (KY), R Albarado, 113, L S Whiting
4. Donoharm (KY), M C Berry, 117, W B Calhoun
5. Ride the Lightning (KY), R Santana Jr., 111     D J Higgins
6. Raison d'Etat (KY), E Martin Jr., 111, D W Lukas
7. Najjaar (KY), T J Thompson, 112, D C Peitz
8. Brethren (KY), M E Smith, 114, S M Asmussen
9. San Pablo (KY), C P DeCarlo, 117, T A Pletcher
10. Alternation (KY), L S Quinonez, 119, D K Von Hemel