Optimizer leads the way home in the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap.

Optimizer leads the way home in the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap.

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Optimizer Wins E.R. Bradley for Red-Hot Lukas

Bluegrass Hall runner becomes trainer's third stakes winner in eight days Jan. 26.

Optimizer  went wire-to-wire in the $125,000 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Jan. 26 for red-hot Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won three stakes races in eight days (VIDEO).

Lukas won the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) with Oxbow  at Fair Grounds Jan. 19 and took the $150,000 Smarty Jones with Will Take Charge  at Oaklawn Park Jan. 21. Optimizer's win was Lukas' third of the afternoon; he also sent out two winners at Oaklawn.

A 4-year-old son of English Channel , Optimizer initially ran the Triple Crown trail for Lukas and Brad Kelley's Bluegrass Hall. But he improved markedly from his off-the-board finishes in that series when moved to turf. He won the Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park in 2012 and collected his second graded stakes win in the Col. E.R. Bradley while completing 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:46.22

Jockey Jon Court was aboard the 2-1 favorite, who broke alertly from post 7 and was eased over to the two path. Optimizer clicked off opening fractions of :24.06 and :50.04 while loping along in relaxed fashion with a one-length lead tracked by Strike Impact and Unlatch.

"I thought he handled (the going) real well and I knew he should run really good today and I was counting on it," Court remarked. "Mr. Lukas is having some luck there at Oaklawn so I wanted to make sure I could bring some of the luck with Optimizer here today."

After three-quarters in 1:15.46, Strike Impact made a strong bid for the lead and came within a head of taking it on the outside. But Optimizer held his own and, when set down in upper stretch, proved much the best under strong urging as Strike Impact retreated. It was 3 1/2 lengths back to second choice String King, who eased off the rail under a drive and secured the place. Bim Bam closed well from the center of the track to get up for the show.

"Everything worked out pretty orderly, other than he finished on the left lead," said Court. "But he finished with a powerful punch, so I was happy with that. I think he likes these distances. If the race sets up I think he's capable of going a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter, he's got that in him, but it's a matter of how things set up. He can handle it, especially on the grass. Anything over a mile is in his favor."

Optimizer paid $6, $3.80, and $3 while String King brought $4 and $3.20, and Bim Bam returned $5.80. Unlatch, Trend, Strike Impact, Dubious Miss, Tetradrachm, and James Street completed the order of finish.

Bred in Kentucky by Bluegrass Hall out of the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick, Optimizer improved his career record to 4-2-2 from 20 starts for earnings of $536,942.