05/23/2012 4:35PM

Alternation sets sights on Stephen Foster Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Pimlico Special winner Alternation will start next in the June 16 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Alternation, currently the top-rated horse in the weekly NTRA Thoroughbred Poll, came out of his game win last Friday in the Pimlico Special in good condition and will make his next start in the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16 at Churchill Downs as long as he continues to train to his connections’ satisfaction, trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Wednesday.

Alternation already has won four races this year, having captured the Essex, Razorback, and Oaklawn handicaps in his three races before winning the Pimlico Special by a nose over Nehro. Last week’s victory also put to rest chatter from some quarters that Alternation was merely a horse who thrived at Oaklawn.

“He’d won the Peter Pan at Belmont last year,” said Von Hemel, who trains Altneration for owner-breeder Pin Oak Stable. “I never thought he was just an Oaklawn horse.”

Alternation went back to the track Wednesday for the first time since his race after shipping back to Arlington on Sunday.

“The track out there was a little taxing, but he looks like he handled the trip and the race pretty well,” said Von Hemel, who won’t decide definitively on Alternation’s immediate racing schedule until the horse trains for another couple weeks.

Even after Alternation’s exciting win in Maryland, this is no time for Von Hemel to exhale. On Monday, he shipped two more stakes horses out of Arlington, sending Caleb’s Posse and She’s All In to New York. Both horses galloped over the Belmont main track Wednesday, with Caleb’s Posse set to contest the Metropolitan Handicap on Monday, and She’s All In a likely runner in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on the same program.

She’s All In won the Grade 2 Sixty Sails last month at Hawthorne by almost nine lengths, but would be facing a far, far tougher field in the Phipps while moving from a race over 1 1/8 miles and around two turns – conditions at which she seemed to excel – to a one-turn, 1 1/16 miles.

“She’s not done that before, and I guess that’s where the apprehension comes from,” said Von Hemel, who would redirect She’s All In to the Fleur de Lis at Churchill if she does not wind up in the Phipps.