09/09/2013 1:44PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Lukas has a live one in Strong Mandate

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hopeful winner Strong Mandate could give D. Wayne Lukas his first win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 17 years.

Major stakes victories don’t come as readily as they once did for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, but in 2013 they have come. Lukas won his first classic in 13 years when Oxbow upset the Preakness. Lukas won his first Travers in 18 years when Will Take Charge nailed Moreno on the wire.

In Strong Mandate, Lukas may have a horse who can give him his first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory in 17 years. Lukas, 78, is the all-time leader in Breeders’ Cup wins with 19, five of which have come in the $2 million Juvenile, which will have its 30th running on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

Strong Mandate gave Lukas his seventh Hopeful victory when he splashed his way to a 9 3/4-length score at Saratoga on Labor Day. A son of Tiznow, a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, out of the Grade 1 route-winning mare Clear Mandate, Strong Mandate certainly has the pedigree to suggest two turns will be even better for him.

Lukas is torn between trying Strong Mandate around two turns in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita on Sept. 28 or waiting for the Champagne, a one-turn mile race at Belmont on Oct. 5. Both are Win and You’re In races for the Juvenile, as is the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5.

If he heads west, Strong Mandate will meet a bevy of talented runners including Del Mar Futurity 1-2-3 finishers Tamarando, Dance With Fate and Can the Man. Tamarando and Dance With Fate both rallied from well off the pace, though Dance With Fate had a more difficult trip, getting shuffled back to last entering the turn. Tamarando is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and his connections will wait until after the FrontRunner to decide about the Breeders’ Cup.

Schoolofhardrocks, a son of Rock Hard Ten trained by David Hofmans, and New Year’s Day, a son of Street Cry trained by Bob Baffert, were both maiden winners around two turns at Del Mar on Aug. 31 and are pointing to the FrontRunner.

If Strong Mandate runs in the Champagne, he will likely face Havana and Honor Code, arguably the two most impressive debut-winning 2-year-olds at the Saratoga meet. Havana, a son of Dunkirk trained by Todd Pletcher, earned a 102 Beyer winning a 5 1/2-furlong race by 2 3/4 lengths. Honor Code, a son of A.P. Indy trained by Shug McGaughey, rallied from 22 lengths back to win a seven-furlong maiden race in the slop by 4 1/2 lengths.

Cleburne, a son of Dixie Union who won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill on Saturday by a neck over stablemate Smart Cover, will train up to the Juvenile, trainer Dale Romans said. Smart Cover could get a start in the Breeders’ Futurity for a possible start in the Juvenile, according to Romans. Medal Count, a son of Dynaformer who won his debut in an off-the-turf race at Ellis Park, may also run in the Breeders’ Futurity, Romans said.

Among those not being considered for the Juvenile are Alberts Hope, winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal, and In Trouble, a son of Tiz Wonderful who won first time out at Saratoga, defeating two next-out winners.