09/07/2009 12:00AM

Lukas beaming over Dublin

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Barbara D. Livingston
Backtalk's 3-for-3 record includes a neck victory in the Grade 2 Sanford.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas turned 74 years old last Wednesday. But when he talks about running his 2-year-old colt Dublin on Monday at Saratoga in the Three Chimneys Hopeful, an enthusiastic Lukas sounds like a man half his age.

"We're excited about it, we're looking forward to it," said Lukas, a five-time Hopeful winner. "I think he's a real talent. Whether it's going to come full cycle in the Hopeful, who knows?"

The Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful drew a deep field of 13, though trainer Rick Violette, sensing the strength of the field, opted to scratch Not Macho Any More and run him in Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Hopeful, run at seven furlongs, highlights an 11-race closing-day card at Saratoga that also includes the Grade 3, $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 3/8 miles on turf. First post is 1 p.m.

Backtalk will likely be the Hopeful favorite based on a 3-for-3 record that includes a neck victory in the here on July 30. He has drawn the outside post and will be ridden by Richard Migliore, who takes over for Miguel Mena, who is not permitted to ride in New York because of an alcohol-related issue.

Dublin finished fourth to Backtalk in a June 11 maiden race that has produced five next-out winners. Dublin, who was pinched back at the start of that June 11 race, bounced back to win a maiden race by 3 1/4 lengths here on Aug. 1, running six furlongs in 1:09.45. The early pace of that race was hot, and Dublin raced fairly close to it.

"He's a big horse," Lukas said. "For him to stay within striking range impressed me more than running by them. It would have been easy for a horse made like him and with his style to have too much ground to make up, even though the pace was hot."

Dublin, to be ridden by Jamie Theriot, is drawn in post 12 (which will become post 11), which Lukas sees as a positive.

"A big, long-striding horse like that on the outside going seven-eighths - that might be a plus in my mind," Lukas said.

Being on the outside may be a plus for Backtalk, who won the Grade 2 Bashford Manor at Churchill and the Grade 2 Sanford from off the pace. Trainer Tom Amoss believes Backtalk, a son of Smarty Jones, will truly excel around two turns.

"Having said that, he's proven at sprint distances, the race is a Grade 1, he likes Saratoga, and we're going to get an extra half a furlong." Amoss said.

Trainer Steve Asmussen is sending out three horses in the Hopeful, led by Enumerate, who was beaten a neck by Backtalk in the Sanford. Enumerate encountered traffic around the far turn, then was blocked behind horses in upper stretch. He tipped five wide and was just outfinished by Backtalk.

"He had a little trouble, got a lot of it, and he's trained great since," Asmussen said. "Trip is going to matter, 13 horses is going to matter. The winner's going to have a lot of talent, but he's also going to be lucky."

Asmussen will also send out Prince Rooney, who won the Mountaineer Juvenile by 15 lengths, and Grand Slam Andre, who won minor stakes at Lone Star and Remington Park.

Westover Wildcat was a good-looking two-length maiden winner here on opening day for trainer Tony Dutrow. The horse does have to stretch out from 5 1/2 to seven furlongs and will break from the rail, but has been training exceptionally well. Leading rider Ramon Dominguez has the return call.

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered both Aikenite, a debut winner here on Aug. 9, and One Note Samba, who ran six furlongs in 1:09.97 winning a New York-bred maiden race here on Aug. 16.

Debut winners Aspire, Overlap, and Liston, as well as Bashford Manor runner-up Flatter Than Me complete the field.