01/26/2013 7:59PM

Fair Grounds: Optimizer wires Colonel Bradley

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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Optimizer, with Jon Court riding, leads all the way in the Col. E.R. Bradley.

The phrase “thrives on racing” has traveled into the realm of racing cliché, which is too bad, because it fits Optimizer so well.

Four-year-old Optimizer started a whopping 14 times in 2012. He hit all three legs of the Triple Crown, took trips to Virginia and Delaware, and made a couple starts at Saratoga. And that was the appetizer course. Optimizer shipped to California for the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 2, went back to Kentucky to race in the Nov. 25 River City, then took another West Coast swing for the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 15.

It’s tiring just writing that schedule, but Optimizer wasn’t fazed. By Jan. 10 he was back on the work tab at Oaklawn Park, and Saturday, he came to Fair Grounds and led all the way in the Grade 3 $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap.

While Optimizer is “thriving on racing,” his trainer, Wayne Lukas, is just plain thriving. The Bradley gave Lukas three stakes wins in the last eight days and three wins on Saturday, his stable having taken two earlier races at Oaklawn. And this was the second consecutive Saturday that Lukas and jockey Jon Court shipped in to grab a graded Fair Grounds stakes, the pair having teamed up with Oxbow in the Grade 3 Lecomte on Jan. 19.

Optimizer got into traffic trouble in the River City and the Hollywood Turf Cup, and his connections decided the way to avoid further jam-ups was to let Optimizer make the running. Optimizer had led and pressed the pace in his first two turf successes last summer, and he seemed perfectly comfortable doling out fractions of 24.06 seconds, 50.04, and 1:15.46 on Saturday.

A phalanx of wannabe stretch runners stacked up behind him as the field straightened away, but Optimizer shrugged them all off, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over the capable Louisiana-bred String King. Bim Bam was third, and Unlatch checked in fourth. Winning time for 1 1/16 miles on good going was 1:46.22, .16 of a second slower than Daisy Devine’s winning time earlier in the day in the Marie Krantz. Optimizer paid $6 as the favorite.

Bluegrass Hall LLC bred and owns Optimizer, a son of English Channel who won the Grade 3 Kent on turf last summer. Optimizer won for the fourth time in 20 starts and pushed his bankroll past the half-million-dollar mark.