Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

BC Countdown - Sprint: Lukas upbeat over Orientate barnmate


It took Orientate eight months to climb to the top of the sprint division. Now, only one obstacle stands between him and being crowned the 2002 sprint champion and Eclipse Award winner: a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"Everybody puts so much emphasis on the Breeders' Cup these days," says D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Orientate for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. "It's really great if you can put that one on the r?sum?. He's had an awfully good year, but in this business you have to keep proving yourself until the year is over."

Orientate has won all five of his one-turn dirt races this year. But it wasn't until he survived a torrid pace battle with defending Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt en route to a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap that Orientate got unanimous recognition as division leader.

Lukas said there is still an outside chance Orientate could make one more start before the Breeders' Cup, in Keeneland's Phoenix Handicap on Oct. 5. But Lukas said he will most likely train Orientate up to the Sprint.

"He runs very well fresh, and I'm comfortable with that," said Lukas.

Lukas does plan to start his other Breeders' Cup Sprint candidate, 3-year-old Day Trader, in the Phoenix. Day Trader is coming off a 3 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint.

"I'm starting to get pretty high on Day Trader," said Lukas.

One obstacle Lukas will not have to worry about on Breeders' Cup day is Squirtle Squirt, whose racing career has apparently ended pending his sale to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association.

Even without the defending champ, the prospective Sprint lineup is rich with speed and talent. Along with the Lukas pair, the group figures to include Swept Overboard, Gygistar, Disturbingthepeace, Bonapaw, Kona Gold, Explicit, Xtra Heat, and Carson Hollow.

Swept Overboard, a fast closing fourth in the 2001 Sprint, has not started since his eye-catching 4 3/4-length victory in the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap on May 27. He will have his only prep for the Sprint on Oct. 5, while seeking to defend his crown in Santa Anita's Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"He had a slight setback after the Metropolitan so I just decided to freshen him," trainer Craig Dollase said. "I like the way he's training; he worked six furlongs in 1:11 and change earlier this week, and there's nothing like having a fresh horse going into the Breeders' Cup."

Bonapaw earned himself a berth in the Sprint with an easy victory in last Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh Handicap at Belmont. He will have to be supplemented to the race at a cost of $90,000 to owners Jimmy and Dennis Richard.

"He's on top of his game right now," said trainer Norman Miller III. "And going back to Chicago is a plus to us. He's already won twice over that track and Bone is pretty much like the hometown horse for this race."

There are no important Sprint preps on tap this weekend.