Sporting Chance breaks his maiden July 22 at Saratoga Race Course

Sporting Chance breaks his maiden July 22 at Saratoga Race Course

Coglianese Photos/Robert Mauhar

Lukas Has Sporting Chance in Hopeful Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer will seek his eighth win in the seven-furlong test.

Four years ago, trainer D. Wayne Lukas took a son of Tiznow  owned by Robert Baker and William Mack into the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and let the racing community know that the old ball coach was far from done schooling others at the top level.

The Hall of Fame conditioner isn't above going back to the well of what has worked for him previously. So for Sept. 4, two days after what will be his 82nd birthday, Lukas will send another bay son of Tiznow owned by Baker and Mack into the seven-furlong Hopeful with designs on delivering another reminder why he is among the best ever.

Sporting Chance will aim to give Lukas his eighth win in the  $350,000 Hopeful Stakes when he breaks from post 6 in a field of eight  on the closing day of the Saratoga Race Course meeting. 

Lukas earned his seventh Hopeful win in 2013, when Strong Mandate  romped to a 9 3/4-length win carrying the same colors Sporting Chance will wear Monday. The latter comes into this year's Hopeful off a 2 1/4-length maiden win at the Spa on July 22, and has been flattered by some of his prior company. In his debut at Churchill Downs June 15, Sporting Chance ran second to Dak Attack, who went on to win the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes Aug. 20.

NOVAK: Strong Mandate Dominates in Muddy Hopeful

"I feel good. I feel like my horse is a very, very solid horse," Lukas said. "But it is a contentious field. At this stage of my career, I am not so naïve to think I can overpower them in a grade 1 at Saratoga. On the other hand, we have grandiose ideas that we have a pretty good horse.

"Every trainer will tell you, 'Mine will rate. Mine will rate.' Mine will. One thing about him, he is very easy to train. A caveman could train him. He is very manageable—very professional. He really does everything right, almost to the point of a fault."

The pace setup among the field shows an abundance of speed, but Lukas said his colt, who has been on the front end in both races, shouldn't have a problem leaving the gate.

"Well, that won't affect us. We have been working on rating him," Lukas said.

Mr. Amore Stables' Firenze Fire enters the Hopeful undefeated through two starts. The Poseidon's Warrior  colt drew off to win his debut at Monmouth Park in June by 3 1/2 lengths, which was followed by his victory by a length in the Sanford Stakes (G3) at Saratoga July 22 for trainer Jason Servis.

SHEA: Firenze Fire Upsets Sanford Stakes

The youngster has shown the ability to rate early and pounce late, which may prove key in a race seemingly filled with speed. 

The Albaugh Family Stable-owned and Dale Romans-trained Free Drop Billy, off his runner-up finish to Firenze Fire in the Sanford, will look to turn the tables with the extra furlong in the Hopeful. His Sanford effort came after the Union Rags  colt fired off a three-length victory in his debut at Churchill Downs June 15.

"I like our horse," Romans said. "I think we've got a big chance. He's doing super, (he's a) good horse, (and) he's coming into it right. (The) farther the better. Hopefully there's some speed in front and we get to run by them. He's just training good. I always thought he was a good horse, and he's run well in his races."

Another who will look to make his presence felt during the seven-panel event is Fort Springs Racing's Psychoanalyze, who hails from trainer Brian Lynch's barn. The son of Overanalyze  won a game duel by three-quarters of a length in his debut at 14-1 at Belmont Park in June, and returned with a stalking trip in the Sanford but was outkicked in the late stages and settled for third.

"We've given him a bit of freshening after the Sanford," Lynch said. "He seemed to take the worst of it from the inside. He seems to be training good. We're starting to stretch him out and (hopefully) he identifies himself."

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send a pair, Mojovation and National Flag to the gate. The former, a son of Quality Road , rated nicely in his sole start to win by two lengths July 29 at Saratoga. National Flag brings an extra race. After a tiring seventh-place finish in his debut, the Speightstown  colt returned Aug. 5 to best eight others by 1 1/4 lengths after a bump-filled six-furlong run.

Entries: Hopeful S. (G1)

Saratoga Race Course, Monday, September 04, 2017, Race 9

  • Grade I
  • 7f
  • Dirt
  • $350,000
  • 2 yo
  • 5:05 PM (local)
11Mojovation (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez118Todd A. Pletcher2/1
22Oskar Blues (KY)Dylan Davis118Kenneth G. McPeek10/1
33Firenze Fire (FL)Irad Ortiz, Jr.122Jason Servis7/2
44Psychoanalyze (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateManuel Franco118Brian A. Lynch15/1
55National Flag (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz118Todd A. Pletcher9/2
66Sporting Chance (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateLuis Saez118D. Wayne Lukas8/1
77Givemeaminit (LA)Joel Rosario116Dallas Stewart10/1
88Free Drop Billy (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado118Dale L. Romans4/1