02/12/2010 12:00AM

Lukas finds top Derby prospect

Michael Amoruso
D. Wayne Lukas will send out Hopeful winner Dublin in the Southwest.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will hit the Triple Crown trail Monday at Oaklawn Park with one of the most credentialed colts he has had in several years. Dublin, who last summer took the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga, is set to start his season in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest, the first of two local preps for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Lukas has won a co-record 13 Triple Crown races in his Hall of Fame career. He returned to the yearling market two years ago with several high-profile investors, and has come away with his best crop of 3-year-olds in years. Dublin leads the pack. A $525,000 purchase at Keeneland, he is by champion Afleet Alex and out of the Grade 1-winning mare Classy Mirage.

Dublin is also one of 19 horses Lukas nominated to this year's Triple Crown, compared with just seven in 2009. The trainer said there is lots to like about Dublin, who heads into this year's preps with as much promise as any of the stable's top prospects from years ago.

"As good as any of them," Lukas said. "I like his running style. I like his strength, and his ability to probably stay, which is important. I think he's got the ingredients. I just have to manage him to the big dance."

Part of that management has been bringing Dublin back from minor throat surgery. He had it following his seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1. Dublin was the even-money favorite, but never got into the race and was beaten 10 lengths by winner Thiskyhasnolimit.

"His last race you have to completely throw out because of throat problems," Lukas said. "We're training a different horse now than we were when he ran then. He had a lazy flapper, which we did a tie-back on. That worked out very successfully."

The lazy flapper would have compromised Dublin's breathing in the Iroquois.

"There's deterioration of the nerve, usually on the left side," Lukas said, "and instead of pulling that flap back on each breath, that nerve deteriorates and it lays in the air passage. So, they tie it back against the wall of the throat and it remains open. The other one's working fine."

Dublin has had a nice series of works at Oaklawn, his latest a half-mile in company in 48.20 seconds Thursday. Terry Thompson was aboard, and has the mount Monday.

As of Friday a field of 11 was probable for the Southwest. Others expected are Cardiff Giant, Conveyance, Cool Bullet, Crider, Domonation, Dryfly, Kitty's Turn, Mission Impazible, Moojab, and Pleasant Storm.

Gomez comes in for Conveyance

Trainer Bob Baffert said Garrett Gomez will be in to ride Conveyance on Monday. Conveyance, who is undefeated in three starts, comes into the Southwest off a front-running win in the Grade 3 San Rafael at Santa Anita. Before that, Conveyance won his maiden and a first-level allowance. He will be Baffert's first starter in years at Oaklawn.

Baffert last started a horse in Hot Springs in 2001, finishing third in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap with Wooden Phone. Prior to that, Baffert ran one horse here in 1999, winning the Grade 2 Fantasy that year with Excellent Meeting.

Conveyance arrived Wednesday from California and handled the ship well, said Baffert.