This past Saturday capped off another incredible meet at Oaklawn as Alternation crushed the invaders in the Oaklawn Handicap and Bodemeister stamped himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite by winning the Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths. Over 63,000 fans were in attendance to watch these two special horses perform at the highest level. While Bodemeister grabbed all the headlines, The Racing Dudes’ hearts were totally invested in Alternation.
We had built a connection with Alternation throughout the season. Thanks to Jeremy Stone of Little River Racing, we got to spend a lot of time at the Donnie K Von Hemel barn. Jeremy was nice enough to invite us to the back stretch and show us around. It became tradition for us to visit Alternation, Caleb’s Posse and several others every time we went to Hot Springs.
Caleb’s Posse was our favorite horse in the beginning, but we both took a liking to Alternation for a couple of reasons. It sounds ridiculous but Alternation seemed to like us, and almost acted as if he recognized us! I’m sure he did not, but we’d like to think so. We also got to see him run three times at Oaklawn this year, where Caleb did not run because of the lack of quality sprint races the track offered. Also, if you’ve ever been around Caleb’s Posse, you know that he doesn’t take real kindly to people petting him. The first time I tried to pet him he bit into my North Face jacket, and I didn’t think he was ever going to let go! For those reasons it was a little easier to “get to know” Alternation.
On Saturday I arrived at the Von Hemel barn early and was able to capture footage of Alternation on his big day. From the minute I walked up I knew he was ready to go. He was kicking, stomping, throwing his head and rolling around in his hay. He knew it was race day!
Here he is the morning of the Oaklawn Handicap heading to the track to jog:
Here he is jogging with Luis Quinonez aboard and Donnie K Von Hemel by his side:
Back to the barn he goes to get a little rest before the race:
As the race approached we both felt so nervous. Alternation had become “our boy” and we knew he’d have to run a super race to beat this field. I can’t imagine how nervous the Von Hemel famliy must have been, or how nervous anyone involved with Pin Oak Stable was. If a couple of “dudes” who had only seen him up close on a few occasions were pacing back and forth, how must his REAL connections feel. Here is the post parade. Very anxious moments!
And finally here is the race for the “Dudes Eye View.” Yes that is the two Dudes screaming in the back ground!
Thank you so much to all the people we met this year at Oaklawn that were so nice to us! Jeremy Stone, Kelby Von Hemel, Donnie K Von Hemel, Kelly Von Hemel, Grant Forster, Kristal Campbell, Luis Quinonez, and Cory Jensen just to name a few. All of you made this meet special for us! We can’t wait to see you all next year, and maybe a few of you down the road in Iowa, Oklahoma, or even New York in the upcoming months!