09/02/2016 3:30PM

For Lukas, 81 candles and maybe a seventh Hopeful

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Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Copy gives trainer D. Wayne Lukas a chance for his seventh Hopeful Stakes win.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – D. Wayne Lukas marked his 81st birthday on Friday. The Hall of Fame trainer hopes to celebrate the occasion by winning his seventh Hopeful Stakes on Monday, when he sends out Royal Copy in the Grade 1 closing-day fixture at Saratoga.

As usual, Lukas was atop his stable pony early Friday morning. When someone greeted him with a “happy birthday,” Lukas said, “I’m trying to keep that quiet.”

It was nearly a year ago, shortly after his 80th birthday, that Lukas had a serious health scare while he was at Parx running horses in the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion. He would eventually need a pacemaker and four stents.

“I feel great, I feel really good,” Lukas said Friday. “Last year, I was in denial. This year, I feel great. And I think my horses have done better this year. I’ve enjoyed the whole Saratoga meet and am looking forward to the fall. I think we’re going to come alive a little bit.”

Lukas mentioned that stakes winners Mr. Z and Super Saks are back in training and should return to the races this fall.

Lukas has won three races at this meet. According to a story in the Thoroughbred Daily News this summer, Lukas had won at least one race at Saratoga the previous 32 summers, so now his streak is at 33.

Two of his victories here have come with maiden 2-year-olds. Royal Copy, after finishing second in a July 23 race here, won a seven-furlong maiden race by 1 1/4 lengths over Pretty Boy Flash, who is also entered in the Hopeful.

“I like the way he’s training,” Lukas said. “He’s doing everything right. He was gutsy when he ran second in his first race up here and then came back and ran even better. I’m hoping for an even better one; we need to get a better one. He’s a very professional horse, and that might help us.”

Royal Copy is a son of Bodemeister out of the Grade 1-winning mare Meadow Breeze. He is owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, longtime clients of Lukas who also owned Hopeful winners Strong Mandate (2013) and Dublin (2009). Lukas’s other Hopeful winners were High Yield (1999), Hennessy (1995), Salt Lake (1991), and Deposit Ticket (1990).

“Maybe I don’t deserve another one,” Lukas said.

Lukas’s other juvenile winner at this meet is Blame Will, a son of Blame who won a six-furlong maiden race here by a neck Aug. 20, earning a solid 88 Beyer Speed Figure. He is being pointed to the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 17.

“I think he’s a very special horse,” Lukas said.

Lukas has other juvenile prospects he’s looking forward to unveiling later this year, including Take Charge Tapit, a son of Tapit from the same family as Take Charge Brandi and Will Take Charge, recent champions trained by Lukas.

“Our stable is always leaning toward the 2-year-old program, and we’re always trying to get something to the 3-year-old classics,” said Lukas, who has won 14 American classics, including four editions of the Kentucky Derby. “We’ll lead them over and see what happens.”