01/15/2010 12:00AM

Dublin heads a strong Lukas string


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Not only is Dublin the most accomplished 3-year-old on the grounds at Oaklawn Park, he also leads what trainer D. Wayne Lukas says is his best crop of young horses in a long time.

"I nominated 18 head for the Triple Crown," he said earlier this week. "I've got a nice bunch of 3-year-olds."

This is the crop that Lukas, winner of a record 13 Triple Crown races, has been awaiting. He went to the yearling sales in 2008 on behalf of several high-profile clients, and one of the purchases was Dublin, a $525,000 buy at Keeneland who won last year's Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.

Dublin is now at Oaklawn for the 3-year-old series and is being pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest on Feb. 15. The Southwest is the track's first graded prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Dublin last raced Nov. 1 and finished seventh, beaten 10 lengths as the favorite, in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. The horse was found to have entrapped his epiglottis during the race, which no doubt compromised his breathing.

"We did minor throat surgery, and I'm pleased with how it turned out," Lukas said.

Dublin is a son of Afleet Alex, who won the 2005 running of the Arkansas Derby, and Classy Mirage, a Grade 1 winner of $716,712. He races for Robert Baker and William Mack.

"The further the better for him," Lukas said of Dublin. "He's a big, imposing individual with a long stride."

Some of the other 3-year-old colts that Lukas has in his arsenal include Activity Report, who was fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and was to run at Oaklawn on Saturday, and Wow Wow Wow, a maiden special weight winner at Fair Grounds, where Lukas also has a division this winter. He said he also has a few Storm Cat colts, one of them out of Tates Creek, a multiple Grade 1 winner of $1.4 million.

Among fillies, Decelerator leads the Lukas crop. She was to run in the $50,000 Dixie Belle here Friday and is on hand for the 3-year-old filly series which culminates with the Grade 2, $300,000 Fantasy on April 2. Rachel Alexandra won that race a year ago before taking the Kentucky Oaks and going on to establish herself as a leading candidate for Horse of the Year.

Decelerator was backing up to six furlongs for the Dixie Belle, one start after running second in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. In June, she won the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill.

Other stakes-quality runners on hand for Lukas at Oaklawn include Hamazing Destiny, who won a first-level allowance sprint at Churchill in his last start with a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. He is being pointed to the $50,000 King Cotton on Jan. 30. Lukas said Be Fair, winner of the Grade 3 Lake George last summer at Saratoga, is a candidate for the $75,000 Pippin on Jan. 23. Flying Private, who was fourth last year in the Preakness, also is here.

Pure Clan targeting Churchill return

Pure Clan is walking under tack at trainer Bob Holthus's barn at Oaklawn and will race this year at 5, he said earlier this week. She arrived from Kentucky on Monday and could be ready to make her first start of the year in the Grade 2, $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 1.

"I think we'll probably walk under tack a week to 10 days, then start jogging, and return to galloping on the first of February," Holthus said.

Pure Clan was given some time off at a Kentucky farm following her runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in her last start Nov. 6.

"She's really filled out and matured nicely," Holthus said. "If everything goes right, I think she'll be even better than last year."

Pure Clan won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont and the Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington in 2009. Holthus said she would likely follow the same schedule of races this year as last, with the primary goal being a return trip to the Breeders' Cup. This year, the Breeders' Cup will be held at her fall base of Churchill.

Pure Clan races for her breeder, Lewis Lakin. She has won 8 of 16 starts and $1.9 million. She is one of four Grade 1 winners on the grounds at Oaklawn, along with Dublin, Summer Bird, and Telling, who took the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August.

* Semaphore Man, who has raced at Oaklawn every year since winning his career debut at the track in 2005, will miss the meet. The horse had been pointing to a campaign in Hot Springs, but had some physical setbacks when returning to training this fall and is getting some time off, trainer Kelly Von Hemel said. Semaphore Man, 8, won the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap last meet and is 8 for 14 overall at Oaklawn.