Sept. 5, 2013
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2011, and Steve Asmussen, who picked up his fifth training title and second straight in 2013, both earned impressive victories with 2-year-old colts last weekend and are well represented in the juvenile races this Saturday at Churchill Downs. If all goes well, both trainers will enter the 2014 Oaklawn season with a full bench of top 3-year-old talent for the track’s rich series for colt and geldings and fillies.
Lukas, who one week earlier had the sprung an upset when Will Take Charge won the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, was right back in the winner’s circle after Strong Mandate ran away with the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes for owners Robert Baker and William Mack. These are the same connections that won the 2010 Hopeful with Dublin, who went on to finish third in both the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby the follow year. Lukas considers Strong Mandate a more talented colt.
"These guys, Bill Mack and Bob Baker, have been with me 25 years,” said Lukas. “We've gone through a lot. We only buy two or three a year. Most years two, this year we got three. They've stayed with us. We've had Grand Slam and Dublin down through the years, and Scorpion. We got some nice horses, but I don't know if we've had one this good. This is a pretty good horse."
The ultimate goal this year for Strong Mandate is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November. He could be joined there by All Cash if the colt comes through with his first career victory in the Iroquois Stakes. He has two third-place finishes at Saratoga to date.
Asmussen opted to skip the Hopeful and take his leading 2-year-old to the Jersey Shore where he was rewarded with an impressive victory by Michael Langford’s Dunkin Bend in the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes. He will have a busy time Saturday saddling fillies Untapable and Nevada Deputy in the Grade 3 Pocahontas and the colt Tapiture in the Iroquois.
The Pocahontas (Race 6 at 7:30 p.m. CT) and the Iroquois (Race 7 at 8:05 p.m. CT) are part of a four-stakes program at Churchill on opening night of the tracks first September meet. First post is 5 p.m. CT.
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