08/15/2013 3:53PM

Remington Park: Prayer for Relief, Alternation get rematch in Governor's Cup

Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Prayer for Relief enters the $175,000 Governor's Cup off a win in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on June 29.

A year ago, Alternation and Prayer for Relief circled the Remington Park racetrack in unison in the Governor’s Cup before finishing a nose apart in a thrilling edition of the meet’s most important race for older horses. The pair is back for Saturday night’s renewal, one in which Prayer for Relief will be a strong favorite to turn the tables on Alternation.

The circumstances leading up to this year’s Governor’s Cup, a $175,000 race to be run over 1 1/8 miles, are different. Alternation, who was the 3-5 favorite last year after a troubled fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, has not raced since an uncharacteristic eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

Prayer for Relief, meanwhile, has put up triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in each of his last three starts, his latest effort a win in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on June 29, in which he earned a 103. In his two prior races, Prayer for Relief was second in both the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap (104 Beyer) and Grade 3 Texas Mile (103).

The Governor’s Cup is the final leg of the Global Gaming Triple, which links the race with the Lone Star Park Handicap and the Texas Mile run at Remington’s sister track, Lone Star Park. Prayer for Relief is the lone horse to compete in the three races this season, and as such is the lone horse eligible for a $15,000 bonus that is to be split equally between his owner, Zayat Stable, and his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

But the bonus and the rematch are just two elements of this year’s Governor’s Cup, which drew a six-horse field, including Evangeline Mile winner Brethren. The race also is the comeback platform for Alternation and his regular rider, Luis Quinonez. Neither has seen action since April.

Alternation missed the summer due to inflammation in a tibia bone, which is located in a horse’s hind end, between the stifle joint and hock. The prescription was a 40-day jogging regiment, and he was able to return to the work tab toward the end of June. As he rehabbed, so has Quinonez, who fractured two vertebrae in a morning training accident at Churchill Downs.

“It seems like we were recovering together,” said Quinonez, 46. “I missed him. The other day when I got to the barn he was in the corner of his stall and he came right out to the front when he saw me. We spent a lot of time together.”

Quinonez said he has been working horses the past three weeks, after spending part of his downtime being confined to a brace that prohibited him from driving. He received doctor’s clearance to ride races earlier this week and was named on four horses for Friday night’s opener at Remington. He was back aboard Alternation last weekend, for a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.20 on Aug. 11.

“He had a good work, went plenty fast, got something out of it,” Quinonez said.

Alternation and Quinonez won five stakes together in 2012, including the Oaklawn Handicap and Grade 3 Pimlico Special.

“I just try to be a passenger,” Quinonez said of how he rides Alternation, who is owned by Pin Oak Stable and trained by Donnie Von Hemel. “I try to get out of his way, ride the best I can. He’s a big horse, and I don’t think anybody can wrestle with him. I just stay out of his way and point to right direction.”

◗ The $75,000 David M. Vance for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs did not fill for Saturday night’s card, but track officials said the race would be brought back for Sept. 14.

◗ Track officials said Remington will have an increased presence this year on TVG. The network also is scheduled to have a live remote at the track for the Oklahoma Derby on Sept.  29.