With his Hall of Fame résumé, trainer D. Wayne Lukas is obviously a good judge of horse flesh; and when he rates a future racing prospect highly, his clients are inclined to trust his judgment.
Such was the case during the first session at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale when Lukas landed on a dark bay or brown son of Tiznow consigned by Woods Edge Farm.
"I ranked him No. 1 or No. 2 on my list and with that in mind I felt very comfortable we would take a strong run at him," Lukas said of the decision by William Mack and Robert Baker to spend $575,000 on the colt later named Sporting Chance. "He is as we speak, and was then, an outstanding individual."
Under the tutelage of Lukas, Sporting Chance has won or placed in four of seven starts and has already earned $409,790 as he enters the fray for the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1) that will be headed by Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Justify. Sporting Chance has already proven his prowess at the highest level, winning the grade 1 Hopeful Stakes as a 2-year-old.
Winless in four starts this year, the colt comes into the Preakness off a troubled fourth in the Pat Day Mile Stakes presented by LG and E and KU Stakes (G3) on the Derby Day card at Churchill Downs. Sporting Chance began his sophomore campaign with a third and fifth, respectively, in the Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2) stakes, both at Oaklawn Park, and a fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.
Produced from the stakes-winning and multiple grade 1-placed Candy Ride mare Wynning Ride, the colt was bought as a weanling for $275,000 by Lapis Bloodstock from his Kentucky breeder Hunter Valley Farm's consignment to the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
"He was just a knockout and I'd had good luck with Tiznow with Folklore," Lukas said, noting the champion daughter of Tiznow he trained for Robert and Beverly Lewis. "I liked the pedigree but I liked the individual even better. He has refinement and he has great talent. He was such an eloquent yearling—very correct with great balance."
In 2016 Sporting Chance's sale price was the second-highest paid for a yearling by WinStar Farm's stallion Tiznow, who is consistently among the leading sires in North America, and is a testament to how well the colt looked when presented to the buying public, according to Woods Edge's Peter O'Callaghan.
"He was a lot of money for a Tiznow colt at the time," the consignor said. "He was a really nice horse. Simple, well-conformed, and a very athletic horse. An easy horse to like. He was a very good foal. He grew up to be the same horse. And has just turned into a very quality, athletic correct horse. Being by a Candy Ride mare gave him a little of the refinement that most colts by Tiznow don't have."
It is unknown if Sporting Chance is up to the challenge in the Preakness, but Lukas and O'Callaghan both believe the colt will be competitive in top company this year.
"He is a very good horse and has a lot of quality and I think he will win a grade 1 as a 3-year-old," Lukas said.
"Whether he belongs in the Preakness I don't know, but on form he deserves to take his chance," O'Callaghan said. "Obviously, the (Preakness) favorite will be very tough, but it's a horse race. I would love to see the horse win a nice race this year, whether it's the Preakness or one down the line."