Alternation has won five of six starts this year, including the Essex Handicap.

Alternation has won five of six starts this year, including the Essex Handicap.

Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park

Alternation Returns in Hawthorne Gold Cup

Oaklawn Handicap winner faces strong field in mile and a quarter test.

Pin Oak Stable’s homebred Alternation , winner of five of six starts this year, will make his first start in almost two months when he carries top weight in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) Oct. 6.

The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor  swept the three stakes at Oaklawn Park for older horses this year – the Essex, Razorback (gr. III), and Oaklawn Handicaps (gr. II) – and added the Pimlico Special (gr. III) and Governors Cup at Remington Park.


The Gold Cup, run at 1 1/4 miles at Hawthorne, will serve as Alternation's prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 3. the race, the eighth on the program, is set for a 5:50 p.m. CDT probable post.


Alternation, the 5-2 pick on the morning line, drew the rail in the field of seven and will be ridden by regular jockey Luis Quinonez. He carries 121 pounds and will concede from four to nine pounds to his rivals.


A winner of nine of his 15 career starts, Atlernation demonstrated his readiness by turning in two bullet works – five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 at Remington Park and a half-mile in :47 3/5 breezing at Hawthorne.


The Gold Cup will be far from easy, with several top-class horses entered. Breaking from the outside in the seven-horse field and making his first start since June 16 is the hard-knocking speedster Nates Mineshaft, who has scored convincing victories in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. II), and Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) for Windy Hill Farm and trainer Austin Smith.


The son of Mineshaft  has won all his races on the front end, capturing the New Orleans Handicap and Lone Star Handicap both by 7 1/4 lengths. He will be ridden for the first time by E.T. Baird.


Also likely to get support at the windows is Cease, who is coming off a strong third-place finish in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) for Adele Dilschneider, Claiborne Farm, and trainer Al Stall, the same connections that brought you 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Blame .


An interesting horse is Pool Play, whose only dirt appearance in 31 career starts resulted in a victory at 36-1 in the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). The 7-year-old son of Silver Deputy has returned from an injury suffered after the Stephen Foster, and is coming off a third-place finish in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. III) over the Polytrack at Arlington Park. Trained by Mark Casse, he gets in with 114 pounds and will be ridden by Miguel Mena.


Representing the 3-year-old crop and carrying only 112 pounds will be former Peruvian sensation Fly Lexis Fly, who rallied to finish second in the Super Derby (gr. II) in only his second start in the U.S. for trainer Neil Drysdale.


Rounding out the field are Mister Marti Gras, coming off four straight graded-stakes placings, and the hard-hitting 7-year-old gelding Eldaafer, winner of the Carl Hanford Memorial at Delaware Park in his last start. The son of A.P. Indy captured the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon for trainer Diane Alvarado.


$500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 5:50 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Alternation (KY), L S Quinonez, 121, D K Von Hemel, 5/2
2. Eldaafer (KY), R Santana Jr., 114, D Alvarado, 6/1
3. Mister Marti Gras (KY), E E Perez, 115, C M Block, 5/1
4. Pool Play (ON), M Mena, 114, M E Casse, 6/1
5. Cease (KY), J M Campbell, 116, A M Stall Jr., 7/2
6. Fly Lexis Fly (KY), F C Torres, 112, N D Drysdale, 8/1
7. Nates Mineshaft (KY), E T Baird, 117, A K Smith, 4/1