Saturday’s $150,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) drew a competitive 10-horse field featuring some familiar horses to Oaklawn fans, including last year’s winner Alternation, Donoharm, winner of the Fifth Season and Essex this season, and two of last year’s top 3-year-olds, Najjaar and Atigun.
Shortleaf Stable’s Atigun used an allowance win and a fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) as a springboard to greater success later in the year that included a third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2). He’s using a similar plan this year. He returned to the races Feb. 15 in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup last November and finished third behind fellow Razorback runners Cyber Secret and Golden Rod.
“We think he’ll improve off that last start,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. “Obviously Lynn Whiting’s horse [Cyber Secret] is the “now” horse and Donoharm has turned out really strong. But we knew going in we weren’t going to be firing our best bullet last time. We got what we wanted out of it and he’s been training like he’s ready to move forward for this.”
Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Donoharm has done no wrong since arriving in Hot Springs and could be the likely favorite as he goes for his sixth straight win Saturday. He went off at odds at 13-1 in the opening day Fifth Season and 7-1 in the Feb. 2 Essex Handicap, but should garner a little more respect in the Razorback.
Dan Bearden’s San Pablo, the beaten favorite when second in the Essex, makes a return trip from trainer Todd Pletcher’s South Florida base. He drew post nine, just to the inside of Alternation, who drew post 10.
Pin Oak Stud’s Alternation, the 119 lb. highweight, will be making his first start since last October, but has been training forwardly for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. Last year, he swept the Essex, Razorback and Oaklawn (G2) Handicaps.
The complete field for the Razorback Handicap, in post position order, with riders and weights: Golden Ron, Ramon Vazquez, 111; Atigun, Victor Lebron, 116; Cyber Secret, Robby Albarado, 113; Donoharm, Cliff Berry, 117; Ride the Lightening, Ricardo Santana Jr., 111; Raison D’Etat, Eddie Martin Jr., 111; Najjaar, Terry Thompson, 112; Brethren, Mike Smith, 114; San Pablo, Chris DeCarlo, 117, and Alternation, Luis Quinonez, 119.