Richard Linihan: Alternation looks good after rest
BY RICHARD LINIHAN Horse Racing
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 5:59 AM
WHEN LAST seen in October, Pin Oak Stable's 2012 Horse of the Year candidate Alternation finished sixth in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in Chicago.
Alternation's trainer, Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Famer Donnie K. Von Hemel, was hoping that performance would propel him into the Breeders' Cup Classic for a shot at the Eclipse Award.
He had a similar run with Caleb's Posse, who won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and narrowly missed beating out Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom for 3-year-old champion of the year.
Alternation won five of his six starts in 2012 with only a fifth-place blemish to show in the Stephen Foster against Ron the Greek.
He came back from that with a win in the Governor's Cup Handicap at Remington Park in Oklahoma City in August. But when he faltered to sixth in Chicago, Von Hemel decided to shut the horse down for the rest of the year.
"I don't think he was tired so much," said Von Hemel. "The performance at Hawthorne was certainly no good and when we looked at what was left on the calendar the rest of the year, we decided, if we were going to run him this year, we would have to freshen him up anyway. We are happy with how things have gone, and like I said, depending on the weather this month, we should be able to have some fun with him here (at Oaklawn) before it's too late."
Von Hemel said he was pointing this 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor toward the Razorback Handicap on March 9, depending on the weather.
If it doesn't cooperate, he could make his 2013 debut April 13 in the Oaklawn Handicap. He won both races last year and also took the Essex Handicap in Hot Springs, Ark., as well.
So far this winter, Alternation has looked like the horse that won three Oaklawn races last year.
He posted a half-mile bullet workout (fastest of the day at that distance) in 48 2/5 seconds Thursday. It was 2/5ths of a second quicker than the Smarty Jones Stakes winner, Will Take Charge. Will Take Charge was revving up to go next in either the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (Feb. 18) or the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (March 16), both races key to picking up points in the new system that will determine Kentucky Derby starters this year. Both the Southwest and the Rebel will be run at 1 1/16th miles this year. The Southwest had been a mile race in previous years.
Von Hemel liked what he saw in his stable star.
"He picked up a little company early and finished up well," said the Piedmont resident.
Thirty horses tried the half-mile distance Thursday and these two were the sharpest.
Leading trainer from last year and a Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, also was good with Will Take Charge's work.
"I was glad to see this from him," said Lukas, who conditions the Unbridled's Song colt. "I told the exercise rider to go in 49, so that was almost perfect. It was just a maintenance half mile, but there were a couple of horses who broke off in front of him and he was pretty aggressive. He's come back good and we're still looking at the Southwest or Rebel with him."
Original Print Headline: Alternation looks good after rest
Richard Linihan is the marketing director for Fair Meadows in Tulsa.