11/26/2011 2:47PM

Gulfstream Park: Luke of York gears up for Spectacular Bid

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Luke of York wins the Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes by a nose.

Luke of York may have been good for trainer Jimmy DiVito’s bank account, but not so good for DiVito’s blood pressure thus far during his 2-year-old campaign. The stretch-running son of Put It Back has won each of his first two starts by a nose, including Kenneland’s Anniversary Stakes on Oct. 15. Divito is hoping Luke of York will make things a little easier on both himself and his trainer when closing out his juvenile season in Saturday’s opening-day feature at Gulfstream Park, the six-furlong Spectacular Bid.

“He cut it a little too close in his first two starts,” DiVito said by phone from Buffalo, N.Y., where he was spending the holiday weekend with family. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to draw away for a change on Saturday. But he’s really a game horse who just doesn’t like other horses to pass him. I don’t think he’s really a hanger, he just kind of plays with horses once he gets to the lead, and when they try to pass him, he runs by them again.”

Luke of York, who’ll be racing on dirt for the first time in the Spectacular Bid, worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:13.82 on Saturday morning at Gulfstream, posting splits of 25.38 seconds, 37.79, and 49.59 for the opening half before galloping out seven-eighths in 1:28.59.

“I worked him from the gate, in part, because he broke slow in his previous start,” DiVito said. “It’s also been a while since he’s run. Doing something like this is not out of the ordinary for me. You never know how he’ll handle the new surface, but he’s been training well on the dirt and hopefully he’ll be able to run on it just as well.”

Luke of York will be among the top contenders in a Spectacular Bid lineup also expected to include Nashua winner Vexor, the promising Ancient Rome, Canadian invader Town Prize, and the Calder-based stakes winner For Oby.

DiVito also will be in stakes action a week from Saturday when he sends out his speedy filly Third Chance in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl. Third Chance, an Illinois-bred, is currently riding a four-race win streak that includes the restricted Powerless Handicap for statebreds at Hawthorne on Oct. 22.

Third Chance has been guided to three of her last four victories by Jozbin Santana, who will ride regularly at Gulfstream for the first time this winter. Santana finished second in the standings this summer at Arlington Park. His agent will be a man who is known to all on the racetrack simply as Irwin.

Sanchez stays hot with few mounts

Jeffrey Sanchez has been on a roll of late while getting himself warmed up for the upcoming Gulfstream session. Sanchez rode three winners Friday at Calder, including a pair for trainer Steve Dwoskin, giving him six victories from the 15 mounts he’s accepted since returning locally.

Sanchez has spent the majority of the year traveling from venue to venue, riding primarily for trainer Wesley Ward for whom he’s recorded 19 victories in 2011. Sanchez and Ward combined to win the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf with Italo earlier in the meet.