Alternation, making his first start since October, returned to the races with a easy-as-it-looked 3 1/2-length win in the $100,000 Essex H. at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 4. The win was the highlight of the day for his sire Distorted Humor, who also accounted for the highly-regarded Santa Anita Park 3-year-old maiden winner Immaculate.
Alternation was the prohibitive 6-5 favorite in the Essex. He broke a step slow from the rail post, but then hustled up by Luis Quinonez to establish himself in fourth for the backstretch run. Quinonez swung the 4-year-old colt out going into the far turn. He advanced steadily to strike the front at the head of the lane and widened his margin through the stretch. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track was 1:44.95.
“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 (G1, in April) with him.”
“This is my favorite horse. It’s great to have him back,” said Quinonez. “He’s been training super and Donnie has done such a great job with him. I just let him run away from the gate and he started picking up horses on his own. I could feel the other horse (Color Me Blue) coming, but he just took off again.”
Alternation, who won the Grade 2 Peter Pan S. at Belmont last summer, won two starts last year at Oaklawn before a troubled fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He finished the year running second by a head in the $400,000 Remington Park Derby. The Pin Oak Stable homebred, who is out of the stakes winner Alternate, won for the fourth time in eight career starts and has now earned $386,500.
Immaculate's Santa Anita win
Regally-bred Immaculate turned in a winning performance at Santa Anita, breaking her maiden in her second lifetime start with a three-wide move in the stretch to get the six furlongs in 1:09.11.
Immaculate, out of the 2005 2-year-old champion filly Folklore, was a $450,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. Immaculate is owned by Southerne Equine Stable LLC and was bred in Kentucky by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust, who also campaigned Folklore.