Honorable Duty went straight to the front, repelled challenges with a quarter-mile to run and proved to be utterly superior in the stretch to win Saturday’s fifth running of the $200,000 Lukas Classic (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 4 ¾ lengths over Money Flows.
The 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, owned by David A. Ross’ DAARS Inc., covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.42. It was his first start in 15 weeks since finishing second to current early Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) favorite Gun Runner in June’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (GI).
Churchill Downs’ top jockey Corey Lanerie rode the winner for trainer Brendan Walsh. It was one of four winners on the day, which also included a triumph aboard Awesome Slew in the $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII).
Breaking the outside post No. 7, Honorable Duty dictated the pace when front-runner Flashy Jewel was bumped at the start. He easily made his way to rail as the field of seven older horses passed the finish line the first time around the one-mile oval. Honorable Duty, with Flashy Jewel just off his right hip, ran the first quarter mile in :24.29, the half in :48.96 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.51. As the field neared the quarter pole on the final turn, all but a fading Albano were within a length of Honorable Duty, who resiliently cut the corner and spurted clear to widen his winning margin down the lane.
“As Brendan (Walsh) told me after the race, ‘That was just a steering job,’” Lanerie said. “I can’t say enough how much of a great job the team did. The toughest part today was just getting him to the gate. The plan originally was to sit off of Flashy Jewel because he always shows speed. We caught a flier out of the gate so we just went for it from there. He sat the entire way with his ears up and very comfortable. Even when the horses got to me around the turn he still had his ears up and moved very easily.”
The victory was worth $121,520 which increased Honorable Duty’s earnings to $795,796 with a record of 15-7-4-1. The Lukas Classic was Honorable Duty’s third stakes win this year. Over the winter, he swept Fair Grounds’ dirt series for older horses – December’s $75,000 Tenacious, February’s $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) and April’s $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (GII) – before finishing second in Churchill Downs’ two prominent spring races for older horses, the $400,000 Alysheba Presented by Big Fish Casino (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day and the Stephen Foster on June 17.
One year ago, Honorable Duty was fifth in the Lukas Classic, which was won by Noble Bird.
Honorable Duty is out of the A.P. Indy mare Mesmeric and was bred in Kentucky by Juddmonte Farms.
Honorable Duty rewarded his backers with payoffs of $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 as the odds-on 3-5 favorite. Money Flows, ridden by Miguel Mena, returned $7.80 and $5.20 with Seeking the Soul finishing another head back in third under Florent Geroux and paid $4.40 to show.
Fear the Cowboy, Eagle, Albano and Flashy Jewel completed the order of finish.
“He ran such a great race today,” Walsh said. “We had a pretty tough spring campaign with him so after the Stephen Foster we gave him some time off to focus on the fall campaign.”
His next targets could be the $200,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland on Oct. 28 and the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs on “Black Friday,” Nov. 24.The Lukas Classic, which earned Grade III status for the first time and received a $25,000 purse increase to $200,000, honors the iconic 82-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks and conditioner of 26 Eclipse Award-winning champions has been based at Churchill Downs’ Barn 44 since 1989.
LUKAS CLASSIC QUOTES
COREY LANERIE, jockey of HONORABLE DUTY (winner): “As Brendan (Walsh) told me after the race, ‘That was just a steering job.’ I can’t say enough how much of a great job the team did. The toughest part today was just getting him to the gate. The plan originally was to sit off of Flashy Jewel because he always shows speed. We caught a flier out of the gate so we just went for it from there. He sat the entire way with his ears up and very comfortable. Even when the horses got to me around the turn he still had his ears up and moved very easily.”
BRENDAN WALSH, trainer of HONORABLE DUTY (winner): “He ran such a great race today. We had a pretty tough spring campaign with him so after the Stephen Foster we gave him some time off to focus on the fall campaign. I’m not entirely sure what we’ll do quite yet for the remainder of the year but our original plan was the (Oct. 28) $200,000 Fayette (Grade II at Keeneland) then the (Nov. 24) $500,000 Clark Handicap (Grade I at Churchill Downs).”
AL STALL JR., trainer of MONEY FLOWS (runner-up): “I’m glad I’m not a rider because the pace didn’t set-up anything like I thought it would on paper with the grey horse (Flashy Jewel) not breaking so well. The favorite was just kind of jogging out there and he’s the best horse. I thought our horse was comfortable and finished up nice and he gave us something to point for later this year. He’ll be a good overnight guy at Fair Grounds.”
MIGUEL MENA, jockey on MONEY FLOWS (runner-up): “He had a nice trip. The horse was doing good and he ran a nice race. He ran a very good race – a winning race.”
DALLAS STEWART, trainer of SEEKING THE SOUL (third): “He ran well. He had a little traffic, but no real problems. He just got outrun. No excuses – he tried hard.”
FLORENT GEROUX, jockey on SEEKING THE SOUL (third): “He had a pretty good trip. I was hoping for a little more pace, but when the 4-horse (Flashy Jewel) didn’t break very well it compromised our chances. Our horse was a little closer and he was at the mercy of what was happening in front of him. But he ran a good race today, finished a good third and it was encouraging for the future.”
$78,527 Carryover for Single 6 Jackpot; Mandatory Payout for Sunday’s 10-Race Closing Day Card
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday for closing day of the 11-day September Meet. The first of 10 races is 12:45 p.m. Eastern and there’s a $78,527 carryover in the Single 6 Jackpot, which has a mandatory payout because of the meet’s conclusion. The six-race sequence will cover Races 5-10 starting at 2:45 p.m.
The race to be crowned Churchill Downs’ September Meet champions will be decided. At the conclusion of Saturday’s 11-race card, Lanerie had a 22-10 lead over Brian Hernandez Jr. in the jockey standings en route to his 14th riding title in the last 16 meets beneath the Twin Spires. Brad Cox and Kenny McPeek were tied with seven wins apiece, one more than Mike Maker, in the trainer standings. Perennial leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey had a 5-4 lead over Paul Fireman’s Fern Circle Stables to be the top owners at the meet.
Sunday also doubles as Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger. Families are encouraged to bring the kids to Churchill Downs for a day of racing and family activities including pony rides, inflatables, petting zoo, stick horse races on the turf course, face painting and more.
Sunday’s National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for ideal conditions: sunny skies with a high near 76.