Three of the most accomplished 2-year-olds on the grounds turned in major training moves at Churchill Downs on Sunday in preparation for what their connections hope will be a trip to Southern California and success in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 2.
The headliner was Robert Baker and William Mack’s Strong Mandate, the winner of Saratoga’s Hopeful (GI) who breezed five furlongs for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in 1:01. The work by the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Tiznow ranked as the fourth-fastest on 45 at distance on the busy Sunday beneath the Twin Spires.
Strong Mandate worked in company with 2-year-old stablemate Tall Boy, a 2-year-old maiden, and finished well clear of his workmate. Internal fractions for the work over a fast track were :12:60, :24.40 and :36.20 and Lukas was especially pleased by Strong Mandate’s strong finish.
"I let him run a little bit through the stretch,” Lukas said. “The first part was pretty easy and he actually went 5 ½ (furlongs). I let him gallop out a little bit. It was very nice – very impressive. He’s a very talented colt and I’m very excited about him – I’m really excited about him.”
Tall Boy completed his five furlong breeze in 1:02.60.
Lukas has set one objective for Strong Mandate prior to his trip to Santa Anita: the Foxwoods Champagne (GI) at Belmont Park on Oct. 5.
"He’ll have one more little breeze here and will ship either Sunday or Monday of next week,” Lukas said.
He has saddled four winners of the Kentucky Derby (GI) and the Kentucky Oaks, a record 14 winners of Triple Crown races, a record 19 winners of Breeders’ Cup races and 24 champion Thoroughbreds during his career, so Lukas clearly knows a good horse when he sees one. And the 78-year-old racing legend believes Strong Mandate is s special talent.
“It’s deceiving how efficient he is at getting over the ground,” he said. “You don’t think he’s going anywhere and he’s just waltzing away from horses. It’s very deceiving how light he is for a big horse.”
The Hopeful victory came in Strong Mandate’s third start, all during the Saratoga meet. After a fifth-place finish in his debut, he won his next outing and then romped by 9 ¾ lengths in the Hopeful.
Donegal Racing’s 1-2 finishers in Churchill Downs’ Iroquois (GIII) on Sept. 7 – Cleburne and Smart Cover – also were out Sunday morning and each worked a half-mile for trainer Dale Romans.
Unbeaten Iroquois winner Cleburne covered the distance in :47.80, which ranked fourth among 89 training moves at the distance. Cleburne’s work included internal fractions of :11.60 and :35 and the son of Dixie Union galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.
Smart Cover, a son of Any Given Saturday who finished a neck behind his stablemate in the Iroquois, covered his four furlongs in :48.60. Churchill Downs clockers recorded his internal fractions at :11:40 and :35.60 with a five-furlong gallop-out of 1:02.
“They’re both doing great,” Romans said. “There have been no problems (since the Iroquois). They’ve just been galloping and doing good.”
Cleburne earned a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile starting gate with his win in the Iroquois, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge series. Smart Cover is being pointed toward Keeneland’s $400,000-added Breeders’ Futurity (GI) over synthetic Polytrack on Oct. 5. The winner of that race also will secure a “Win and You’re In” berth in the Juvenile.
THREE-YEAR-OLDS: LUKAS CELEBRATES ANOTHER VICTORY FOR WILL TAKE CHARGE; DERBY 139 RUNNER-UP GOLDEN SOUL RETURNS TO TRACK – A long year for Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge continued to improve on Saturday when the D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Unbridled’s Song rolled to a 2 ¼-length victory over Moreno in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GI) at Parx Racing.
Will Take Charge, who failed to finish in the top four in any of the Triple Crown races, notched his second consecutive victory in a $1 million race. He had edged Moreno in his previous start in Saratoga’s Travers, but disposed of that rival more easily this time around.
The victory put Will Take Charge in serious contention for the Eclipse Award that will go the top 3-year-old in the U.S. and he climbed up the list of major contenders for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov.2. Lukas believes his chestnut colt will be a serious player when he faces older rivals in the Classic.
"He’ll be tough on ‘em,” Lukas said. “He’s getting better and he’s got five or six weeks more to mature some more. He’s put on about 25 pounds since the Travers, so he’s filling out and really getting stronger.”
Will Take Charge now has five victories in 12 races, and his four wins in nine 2013 starts that also include stakes victories at Oaklawn Park in the Grade II Rebel on March 13 and the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 21. Although he had no success during the Triple Crown run in the spring, Will Take Charge encountered major traffic problems at the head of the stretch in the Kentucky Derby that could have cost him a placing on the first Saturday in May.
“One of the things that’s significant is that he started running in January and he’s run in every 3-year-old race in the country,” Lukas said. “Nobody else has. He’s made every dance.”
Will Take Charge will train-up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs and travel to Santa Anita the week before his year-end objective.
The Pennsylvania Derby continued a year of resurgence for the ageless Lukas, who turned 78 on the day of a victory in Saratoga’s Grade I Hopeful Stakes by 2-year-old star Strong Mandate., who is being pointed toward the Champagne (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). His Preakness (GI) victory with Calumet Farm’s Oxbow was his record 14th victory in a Triple Crown race, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame training legend “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.
Lukas said his career has been “very gratifying.” And, of course, the year is far from over.
“I’m really happy for my clientele, all across the board,” Lukas said. “They’re all new except for (Bob) Baker and (Bill) Mack, of course. I’ve had them with me forever. I’ve won a lot of nice races, but I love to see the excitement and expression on these guys faces when they win one. It’s really great.”
Meanwhile, Dallas Stewart – a former Lukas assistant – was relieved on Sunday after he sent Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul, the runner-up to Orb in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, out for morning jog.
It was the first trip to the track for the homebred son of Perfect Soul since he finished a disappointing ninth out of 12 on Wednesday as the favorite in a 1 ½-mile allowance race over the undulating turf course at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.
Stewart said Golden Soul dropped out of contention after he took what appeared to be a “bad step” on the far turn of that race. Golden Soul came out of the race with a sore foot and pastern, and the trouble spot was thoroughly soaked while veterinarians took a close look.
“He’s fine,” Stewart said. “He X-rayed good and he jogged good, so I think we’re OK.”
Wednesday’s scare at Kentucky Downs came in Golden Soul’s debut on the grass. He has failed to finish better than seventh in three starts since his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, but Stewart said he’ll consider a plan for a fall campaign soon.
“I don’t know where we’ll go next, we’ll just have to get our heads together and see,” Stewart said. “We’ll regroup.”
Golden Soul has a career record of 1-3-0 in 10 races with earnings of $533,034.
FRIDAY’S SEVENTH ANNUAL ‘LADIES DAY’ AT CHURCHILL DOWNS WILL BENEFIT THE BACKSIDE LEARNING CENTER – The seventh annual “Ladies Day at the Races”, sponsored by CALOSPA, will be held Friday (Sept. 27) at Churchill Downs. All proceeds benefit the Backside Learning Center, a non-profit educational facility serving the needs of the people who live and work on the backside of the track at Churchill Downs.
“’Ladies Day at the Races’ is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Backside Learning Center, which is an educational and resource center that serves hundreds of workers on the backside of the track at Churchill Downs,” said Sherry Stanley, Executive Director of Backside Learning Center. “This event is a fun way to spend the day, while supporting the equine workers who dedicate their lives to the Thoroughbred industry.”
The fundraising event will be held in the sixth floor Millionaires Row section of Churchill Downs. Patrons will be treated to a lunch buffet by Levy’s Restaurant with a day of racing, fall fashion show, silent and live auctions. The day’s events will be hosted by an auctioneer and retired jockey and TV analyst, Donna Barton Brothers.
Live auction highlights include: halters of Will Take Charge, Groupie Doll, Palace Malice and Verrazano; a one week stay in a South Beach, Fla. condo; two tickets to the practice round of the PGA and members’ tent access; and an on-air spot with Drew Deener on ESPN 680.
Tickets are $75 per person or $520 for a table of eight with an advance purchase. Tickets can be purchased online at www.backsidelearningcenter.org or by calling (502) 634-6543. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
Media is welcome to cover the event.
The Backside Learning Center works to enhance the lives of equine workers by providing education, life skill resources and community. The Center serves over 300 workers annually. For more information on The Backside Learning Center, please visit www.backsidelearningcenter.org.
BARN TALK: Jockey Joe Rocco, Jr., injured in a spill on Saturday, took off his mounts on Sunday. Rocco plans to return to riding later in the week. … A busy morning on the Churchill Downs work tab included a work by 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) winner Little Mike, who breezed five furlongs for trainer Dale Romans in 1:02. Other notable workers included Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the 2012 Indiana Derby (GII) and Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20; Bourbon Courage, third in the 2012 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), breezed a half-mile in :50.80; and Gentlemen’s Bet, third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (GI), breezed four furlongs in :47.80 for trainer Ron Moquett. … The work tab at the six-furlong Trackside Training Center oval included five furlongs moves by Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Secretariat (GI) winner Admiral Kitten in 1:00.60 and Regret (GIII) and Lake George (GII) winner Kitten’s Dumplings, who covered the distance in 1:00.40. … Ride On Curlin, fourth as the favorite in the Iroquois, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.