09/05/2013 3:09PM

Belmont Park notes: Lukas has options for Strong Mandate on each coast

Barbara D. Livingston
Strong Mandate, who won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Monday, likely will start next in either the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes or the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Strong Mandate, the 9 3/4-length winner of Monday’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, arrived in Kentucky on Wednesday but soon will be making another road trip.

The question trainer D. Wayne Lukas needs to answer is whether that trip will be east or west. Lukas said Thursday he is considering both the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne at Belmont Park on Oct. 5 and the Grade 1, $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28 for Strong Mandate’s next start.

While Lukas likes the idea of running Strong Mandate around two turns in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita – which also is the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup in November – he also likes the fact that the Champagne is run a week later.

“He just had three races,” Lukas said, noting that Strong Mandate ran three times in 43 days during the Saratoga meet.

Lukas did say that Strong Mandate came out of the Hopeful very well. In reviewing the race, Lukas said he was amazed at how easily the horse appeared to be moving through the sloppy Saratoga stretch.

“The one thing that stood out in my mind is it looked like he was moving in a high gallop the last three-sixteenths,” Lukas said.

Strong Mandate, who earned only an 85 Beyer Speed Figure for Monday’s victory, gave Lukas his seventh Hopeful winner and his first since Dublin in 2009. None of his Hopeful winners has won the Champagne, though Lukas has won the race twice with Timber Country in 1994 and Grand Slam in 1997.

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While Lukas debates where to run Strong Mandate, trainer Todd Pletcher said Corfu, who finished ninth as the 7-2 favorite in the Hopeful, will shorten up to six furlongs for the Grade 2, $200,000 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 29.

Perillo taking over Ness division

Beginning with the opening of the Belmont fall meet, Laura Perillo will be training the New York division for Midwest Thoroughbreds. Perillo takes over for Jamie Ness, for whom Perillo worked as an assistant the last year.

Perillo, 30, worked for Midwest’s previous trainer, Brad Cox, before joining with Ness.

“It’s time for her to take over the reins,” Ness said. “I got a lot of horses at Delaware and Maryland. I can’t get up there as much as I’d like. I wish her all the luck and hope she does good.”

“Nervous and excited,” Perillo said. “I don’t want to mess it up.”

Perillo will have 17 horses in her care, three of whom are entered on Saturday’s opening-day program. Leilani’s Ticket and Charlie’s Punch are a coupled entry in the sixth, with Luis Saez named on both, so only one may run. Cash Your Ticket is entered in the ninth.

Garden City hopefuls work

Recent stakes winners Discreet Marq and Caroline Thomas worked over Belmont’s main track Thursday in preparation for the $500,000 Garden City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf, the first Grade 1 of the meet, to be run Sept. 14.

Discreet Marq, the Del Mar Oaks winner, went five furlongs in 1:01.60 by herself. Following the renovation break, Caroline Thomas, who was placed first by the stewards in the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga, worked four furlongs in 47.50 in company.

Trainer Christophe Clement said Discreet Marq will be the third horse he has run in the Garden City after running in the Del Mar Oaks. Voodoo Dancer was beaten in the Del Mar Oaks and won the Garden City, while Rutherienne won both races.

“I toyed with the idea of not running in the Garden City and running in the First Lady at Keeneland,” Clement said. “It might be a missed opportunity not to take advantage of running against her own age group.”

Others pointing to the Garden City include Emollient, Summer of Fun, Watsdachances, and With Sugar On Top.

◗ Za Approval, who scratched out of both the Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch handicaps due to soft turf, worked five furlongs in 1:00.85 on Thursday over Belmont’s main track. Clement said he is pointing Za Approval to the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 15.

◗ Jockey Jose Espinoza, injured in a spill at Saratoga on Aug. 17, is hoping to return Sept. 18, his agent, Nick Soulis said Thursday. Initially, Soulis said Espinoza suffered just a broken nose, but on Thursday, he said Espinoza did have blood on the brain and concussion-like symptoms.

◗ Jockeys Joe Bravo and Angel Arroyo will be riding on a regular basis at Belmont this fall. Bravo is named on seven mounts on Sunday’s card, while Arroyo is listed to ride two.