Updated on 04/14/2012 7:15PM

Oaklawn Handicap: Alternation rolls to third straight stakes victory

Coady Photography/ Renee Torbit
Alternation proves uncatchable under Luis Quinonez in the Oaklawn Handicap.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- Alternation has stepped up his game the entire Oaklawn Park meet, and on Saturday he defeated a pair of last-out Grade 1 winners, Ron the Greek and Hymn Book, in a deep edition of the Grade 2, $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Alternation won by 2 1/2 lengths, and in the process picked off his third straight stakes behind the $100,000 Essex Handicap in February and the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback on March 10. His goal all meet has been the Oaklawn Handicap.

“It’s very satisfying,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Alternation for Pin Oak Stable.

Ron the Greek rallied for second, while it was another half-length back in third to Ywanna Twist. Hymn Book was fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Ywanna Twist.

Alternation ($9.20) moved to the lead soon after the start of the 1 1/18-mile Oaklawn Handicap, and was up by more than a length through fractions of 23.91 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.30 for the half-mile, and 1:12.59 for six furlongs. Alternation had more in the stretch, and under regular rider Luis Quinonez covered the distance on a track rated fast in 1:49.94.

“I thought there was a chance Ywanna Twist might try and show some speed and when he didn’t we were there by ourselves, probably even a little easier than the [Razorback],  when Tapizar was lapped on us,” said Von Hemel.

It was in the Razorback that Alternation showed more speed than ever before, setting a pressured pace in the 1 1/16-mile race before winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Alternation on Saturday picked up his second Grade 2 win behind the Peter Pan last May at Belmont Park.

He earned $240,000 for the win, which was his seventh from 12 starts. Alternation, a 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor, has now earned $720,004. He will be based at Arlington Park, while next-race plans for him are to be determined, said Von Hemel.

“Right now, we’re going to celebrate,” said Von Hemel.

The Oaklawn Handicap was moved to the Arkansas Derby card for the first time this year, helping to make the closing-day program the richest card in the history of Oaklawn.