D. Wayne Lukas, still the all-time leading Breeders’ Cup trainer but a horseman who had fallen on hard times of late, scored his first Grade 1 victory in nearly four years Monday when a 2-year-old colt he talked the owners into buying for $525,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September Yearling Sale won the $300,000 Hopeful Stakes on closing day at Saratoga.
Dublin, by Afleet Alex out of Classy Mirage who was jumping up from the maiden ranks, beat Aspire by two lengths. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Aikenite, and the undefeated Backtalk, who’d won the Grade 2 Sanford, finished fourth.
The winner, the 3-1 favorite, covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.52 while giving Lukas his sixth Hopeful victory but first since 2000. Lukas’ last Grade 1 victory before Monday came when he saddled Folklore for a win in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park.
Lukas, never shy with an opinion, is not happy that the Breeders’ Cup will be run over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface on Nov. 6-7.
“They’ve screwed up the Breeders’ Cup so they’re going to force us to do things I don’t want to do,” Lukas told the Daily Racing Form. “I don’t know just where we’ll look right now. You got the Champagne (Oct. 10) right in front of us, the Breeders’ Futurity (at Keeneland) is an option. I would really prefer that we move the Breeders’ Cup to Churchill or Belmont and keep him on the dirt.”
Interestingly, Lukas’ old rival when the two both trained horses for the late Bob Lewis, Bob Baffert, also won a pair of 2-year-old races at Del Mar on Monday and it’s beginning to look like their paths could cross again during the 3-year-old classics in the spring.
Lukas and Baffert have patched up any differences they might have had, and Lukas gave the introductory speech when Baffert was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month in Saratoga Springs.
“You always root for Wayne, you know what Wayne’s done for this sport,” said Mike Pegram, whose Real Quiet won the 1998 Kentucky Derby for Baffert and who owns part of Lookin At Lucky, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Monday. “And you know what Bobby’s done for this sport. And they both cut their teeth here at Del Mar.
“I rooted for (Lukas) today, but now he’s got to beat two of ’em.”
Along with Lookin At Lucky, Pegram also owns a piece of the Baffert-trained Indian Firewater, who broke his maiden in Monday’s seventh race at Del Mar and also looks like a talented colt.