Lukas Hopes Holiday Runner Can Stay Unbeaten

(Edited from track report)
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is hoping to keep S.J. Bee Stable's Holiday Runner unbeaten as she faces five other 2-year-old fillies in the 87th running of the $150,000 Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) at 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga Race Course on Monday.

So far, Holiday Runner has been a bargain for both Lukas and S. J. Bee Stable. Since being purchased for $35,000 at the Keeneland sales last September, Holiday Runner has yet to be defeated in three races and had earned more than $155,000.

"I wasn't there to pick her out," Lukas said. "Whoever picked her out was either lucky or they knew what they were doing. This filly has been really good for us."

Holiday Runner made her racing debut in April and the Meadowlake filly jumped right out of the gate to win a 4 ½-furlong maiden special at Keeneland by nearly seven lengths under very little urging from Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey.

"She snuck up on us," Lukas said. "We did expect her to run well in her first race, but none of us thought she would have won the way she did. She has developed and has done everything the right way to this point."

Bailey has the mount Monday.

On the undercard on Kentucky Derby Day, Lukas had Holiday Runner race against males in the Three Chimneys Juvenile. Breaking sharply from post nine, the filly yielded the lead briefly, then came back to hold off a late charge from the highly-regarded Zavata, who later won the Tremont (gr. III), just missing the track record for 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park. Zavata is nominated to Wednesday's $150,000 Saratoga Special (gr. II) at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"That was a bigger surprise for us because of the way she defeated the colts," Lukas said. "She took a lot of heat early in that race and took on the late rushers near the end. That was difficult for the filly. I am hoping that she becomes a little more dimensional where she can rate going longer."

Lukas brought Holiday Runner to New York for the Fashion Stakes during Belmont Stakes week in early June. This time, the filly was headed by La Violette through a first quarter that went in :21 2/5. Holiday Runner shrugged off that challenge to draw off by five lengths in the stretch before defending a late rally by Miss Mary Apples.

"When she came out of that race, her feet weren't moving well," Lukas said. "So, we gave her a little breather. We knew she couldn't make all three races here. But we are on target for the Adirondack. She's ready to run."

Lukas won the Adirondack.four consecutive times during the 1980s with Nervous Baba (1985), Sacahuista (1986), Over All (1987) and Pat Copelan (1988). He also won the Adirondack with Salty Perfume in 1997.

Michael Tabor purchased Stellar at the Keeneland sales for $700,000. The daughter of Grand Slam was supposed to make her debut in the Schuylerville (gr. II) on opening day at Saratoga, but trainer Patrick Biancone opted to scratch the high-priced filly for a race against unproven horses four days later.

"I was scared the Schuylerville was going to be a too hard of a race for her," Biancone said. "I wish they took out some of the good horses in that race. But we did think about taking a shot. She was the queen of the sales and has lived up to her expectations. She thinks she's a princess and likes to do things her way."

Stellar broke her maiden, but it wasn't as easy as most expected. After Stellar broke inward at the start, Bailey got the filly to relax going down the backstretch.

As the field entered the far turn, five horses surrounded Stellar. Bailey brought Stellar four-wide going around the turn. It appeared she was going to draw away at the top of the stretch, but she never changed leads and just managed to break her maiden by a length.

"No doubt about it, it was an impressive race," Biancone said. "But she ran like a baby. She had no concentration. She jumped slow and was looking around. When she came off the turn, I thought she would change leads and win by five (lengths)."

"That's OK if she didn't change leads in a maiden race. But she can't do that in a stakes race. We really wished she had finished second in that race because we could have ran back her against maidens to give her more experience."

Edgar Prado rides Stellar.

Winstar Farms and trainer Elliott Walden recently acquired Awesome Humor from previous owner Tom Durant during the Keeneland select yearling sales in July. Walden trained her sire, Distorted Humor, who was a sprint specialist.

"The only thing similar between this filly and Distorted Humor is both can run fast," Walden said. "Otherwise, she much bigger than him. He was hot-blooded, but she's really quiet."

Awesome Humor has proven she is a versatile filly by winning on and from off the pace. She was bumped at the started and forced to come off the pace and race six-wide to win the Debutante (gr. III) by two lengths over Vibs at Churchill Downs.

"I feel really good about this filly," Walden said. "I had her work out with an older horse last week and she kept up with her. We might run Awesome Humor a couple of more times before we give her some time off and bring her back as a 3-year-old."

$150,000 Adirondack Stakes (gr. II)
PP. Horse (Jockey), Weight
1. Ella Bella (John Velazquez), 116
2. Stellar (Edgar Prado), 116
3. Crimson and Roses (Jorge Chavez), 116
4. Awesome Humor (Pat Day), 122
5. Holiday Runner (Jerry Bailey), 122
6. Just Call Me Angel (Frank Alvarado), 116