Alternation starts his 2012 campaign with a victory in the Essex at Oaklawn.

Alternation starts his 2012 campaign with a victory in the Essex at Oaklawn.

Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park

Alternation Impressive in Essex Handicap

Donnie Von Hemel trainee romps Feb. 4 in season debut at Oaklawn.

Pin Oak Stable’s Alternation  earned the Oaklawn stakes victory that eluded him last year when he authoritatively captured the $100,000 Essex Handicap Feb. 4 (VIDEO).

Among the leading contenders on the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) trail in 2011 with two impressive allowance wins, it wasn’t until he won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont in May that he began to show his true potential.

Starting his 2012 campaign as the 6-5 favorite, Alternation broke a tad slow but jockey Louis Quinonez never panicked and settled the colt into fourth position as It Happened Again and Racing Bran raced head-and-head through a fast half-mile in :46 1/5. The winner began his advance entering the final turn and once in the stretch, and shook clear for a 3 1/2-length victory over Color Me Blue. Twice The Appeal maintained his early position to finish third.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile dirt race was 1:44 4/5 over a fast track.

“This was the kind of performance that makes you start dreaming a bit,” said winning trainer Donnie Von Hemel. “It’s a great start to the year for him, and I’d think we’d love to participate in the Oaklawn Handicap with him.”

Alternation, a home-bred son of Distorted Humor  out of Pin Oak stakes winner Alternate, won for the fourth time in eight career starts and has now earned $386,500. He returned $4.20, $3.20 and $2.40.