With a long list of top racing wins of his own, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is just fine with the top-level goals of Brad Kelley's Calumet Farm.
"They put their emphasis on grade 1. Brad Kelley doesn't even know how to spell 'grade 2,'" Lukas said. "If it isn't grade 1, it's just another race to him. A lot of people breed horses all their lives and would love to get a grade 2, but that doesn't mean a thing to him. He's only interested in the big ones."
Lukas and Calumet will take aim at one of the biggest races June 9 when they send out homebred Bravazo in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Belmont Park. Bravazo won the Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) in February and earned a classic placing when he finished second in the Preakness Stakes (G1), where the son of Awesome Again closed to within a half-length of Justify.
Although Lukas thinks Justify will be tough to knock off Saturday, he said Bravazo also is doing well. Lukas would love to deliver another classic win for Calumet. In 2013, he saddled Oxbow , also a son of Awesome Again, to a victory in the Preakness and a runner-up finish in the Belmont.
Oxbow stands at Calumet for $20,000. According to the farm's Jak Knelman, the Calumet racing program is about building families to support the Calumet stallions.
Calumet initially considered shipping Bandua from Europe to contest the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. The Kentucky-bred son of The Factor has won his first two starts at Cork in Ireland for trainer Dermot Weld. Calumet purchased Bandua for $150,000 as a weanling at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Calumet has fewer than 10 horses in training in Ireland with Weld and Joseph O'Brien.
In North America this year, not counting its partnerships, Calumet has a record of 29-35-30 and earnings of $2.26 million from 222 starts.
In a different era for the farm, Lukas was the trainer of Calumet homebred Criminal Type, the 1990 Horse of the Year. He would love to add to the success of Kelley's Calumet, as well as the historical success of the Calumet operation, which boasts Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948).
"I was telling Brad Kelley, I want to get him back (to the top). They'll get there with or without me," Lukas said. "Brad Kelley is very intense on getting Calumet back into the No. 1 spot. He's very aggressive."