09/18/2013 12:38PM

Churchill Downs: Big Lute returns from knee surgery in allowance sprint


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Big Lute was so impressive in winning his career debut last winter that Steve Hobby put the colt on the Triple Crown trail just 17 days later. The results were disappointing, but easy to comprehend, considering Big Lute emerged from the Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park with a small knee chip.

Surgery was performed, recuperation went smoothly, and on Friday the comeback begins when Big Lute returns to action in a first-level allowance race at Churchill Downs.

“We caught the injury very fresh, and the long-term prognosis was very good following routine surgery,” said Hobby, who trains Big Lute for longtime clients JoAnn and Alex Lieblong.

Big Lute, a 3-year-old Maryland-bred by Midnight Lute, was purchased for $275,000 two years ago at the Keeneland September yearling sales, which is where Hobby happened to be Tuesday afternoon when discussing the colt’s upbringing.

“He’s a beautiful horse,” Hobby said.

His first race was a beauty, too, as he earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in a six-furlong maiden romp Feb. 1 at Oaklawn before incurring his injury in a seventh-place finish in the Southwest.

“He’s really trained well into this,” said Hobby, alluding to eight Churchill workouts since late July. Big Lute is a half-brother to 4-year-old Koh I Noor, a three-time allowance winner.

“Eventually, we’d like to stretch him out again,” Hobby said. “He’s got a brother who’s a real nice miler, so we’re probably thinking that’s what he’s going to be.”

Big Lute, with Robby Albarado back to ride, will break from post 5 in a field of nine in the ninth of 10 Friday races, a $48,000 allowance at six furlongs. His chief threat could come from Googleado (post 6, Rafael Santana Jr.), one of just two 4-year-olds in a field otherwise filled by 3-year-olds.

One other allowance (race 4) is on the Friday card. It’s a $50,000, second-level turf route that will have no more than six starters, given the relatively safe assumption that the race will stay on grass. The three program favorites – Monastic, Film Making, and Beer Garden – all were entered in an oversubscribed Wednesday allowance at turf-only Kentucky Downs, but all were scratched in favor of the smaller field Friday.

First post is 1:45 p.m. Eastern, with race 4 set for 3:20 and race 9 for 5:59. A couple of nice-looking 2-year-old maiden events (races 6 and 8) and a pair of starter allowances (races 1 and 7) also are on tap.