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Lukas loaded for big weekend
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Since Azeri's stirring victory in the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap on Aug. 1, trainer D. Wayne Lukas has lost with the 28 runners he saddled at Saratoga.
Lukas, a Hall of Fame trainer who has had seven second-place finishes during this skid, will try to turn things around in some of this meet's biggest races this weekend at Saratoga.
Lukas, who is 3 for 45 at the meet, will send out Schuylerville winner Classic Elegance in Friday's Grade 2 Spinaway, Consolidator in Saturday's Grade 1 Hopeful, and the uncoupled entry of Stellar Jayne and Susan's Angel in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama.
Classic Elegance gave Lukas his first stakes win of the meet when she rallied from well off the pace to take the Grade 2 Schuylerville here on July 28. Classic Elegance, who is 3 for 3 against fillies, has had only one work - officially a four-furlong move in 49.20 seconds on Aug. 10 - since then. Lukas said Classic Elegance actually worked five furlongs, and didn't need to do a lot.
"She's dead fit; she's coming off two good races,'' said Lukas, who has won the Spinaway six times.
Consolidator finished third behind Afleet Alex in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes here on July 29. Lukas is adding blinkers to Consolidator's equipment for his rematch with Afleet Alex.
"It might focus him a little bit,'' Lukas said. "He had his head cocked in the stretch of the Sanford.''
Lukas said Consolidator had blinkers on for his last two works, including a four-furlong move in 48.68 seconds Sunday over the Oklahoma training track.
Stellar Jayne, the Mother Goose winner and runner-up in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and Susan's Angel, winner of the Serena's Song Stakes at Monmouth, worked in company Monday morning over the training track. Stellar Jayne was credited with a time of 48.46 seconds, while Susan's Angel was timed in 48.55.
Lukas felt that Stellar Jayne may have been compromised by the wet track in the Coaching Club, but he liked the way Stellar Jayne battled back to be second after being passed by Ashado and Magical Illusion at the three-eighths pole.
Susan's Angel has improved dramatically in her last four starts, something Lukas attributes to maturity.
"She's getting her act together,'' Lukas said. "She was slight, immature. I think she deserves a chance. She's going to have to move forward off the Monmouth race. I think the distance will suit her. The best race of her of life was with Pat Day and I got him to ride her, so I feel good about that.''
Also considered definite for the Alabama are A Lulu Ofa Menifee, A Song in A Minor, Ashado, Fleet Indian, Honor Point, Last Song, and Yearly Report.
Test winner Society Selection worked a strong mile in 1:39.02 Monday morning. Trainer Allen Jerkens said he and owner Irv Cowan "still don't know what we're going to do.''
Jerkens is also considering the Grade 1 Ballerina on Aug. 29 for Society Selection.
Afleet Alex breezes toward Hopeful
Afleet Alex, who set a stakes record winning the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes here on July 29, worked four furlongs in 46.40 seconds Monday morning at Delaware Park. The move was the fastest of 21 recorded at the distance over a muddy track. It was his final move prior to running in Saturday's Grade 1 Hopeful.
Afleet Alex, unbeaten in three starts, caught a stablemate who broke off far in front of him. Afleet Alex was timed in splits of 12 seconds, 23.60, 46.40, and he galloped out five furlongs in 59.80.
"The work was fine,'' trainer Tim Ritchey said. "As long as everything's fine, and he comes out of the work okay, we'll ship in Friday.''
While Afleet Alex earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his Sanford win, Devils Disciple owns the highest Beyer Speed Figure (103) earned to date by a 2-year-old. Devil's Disciple, a gelded son of Devil His Due, arrived here from Florida on Friday and has been galloping over the main track. Trainer Joe Waunsch said Devils Disciple would blow out on Thursday under jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
Others expected for the Hopeful include Flamenco, Storm Surge, Wild Nature, and Winning Expression. Winning Expression worked five furlongs in 1:01.07 over the main track on Monday.
What's next for Speightstown?
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Speightstown came out of his dynamic victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt in "excellent'' condition. Pletcher said he would wait until after watching Strong Hope run in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap here on Sept. 4 before deciding what to do next with Speightstown.
Strong Hope and Speightstown are both owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk and trained by Pletcher.
The possibilities include the Vosburgh on Oct. 2 at Belmont and training up to the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 30.
Speightstown, who is now 4 for 4 this year, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 116 for his Vanderbilt score.
Zito has three for Travers
Trainer Nick Zito will run three of the seven horses expected to run in the $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 28.
Zito confirmed Monday that West Virginia Derby winner Sir Shackleton would join Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone and Blue Grass winner The Cliff's Edge in the starting gate for the Mid-Summer Derby.
Zito said that Sir Shackleton's owner, Tracy Farmer, said on Sunday night that he'd like to take a shot in the Travers.
"I'm all for it," Zito said. "The more the merrier. He might be on the improve and that's one thing you have to look at.''
The other four horses pointing to the Travers are Haskell winner Lion Heart, Jim Dandy winner Purge, Northern Dancer winner and Swaps runner-up Suave, and Eddington, the third-place finisher in the Preakness, Wood Memorial, and Jim Dandy.
Zito also said Monday that Shane Sellers would retain the mount on The Cliff's Edge. As of Monday, jockey Jerry Bailey was without a Travers mount.
Sunday, Birdstone worked six furlongs in 1:16.16 over the Oklahoma training track. All three of Zito's Travers horses are expected to have one more breeze before the race.
Spanish Spur takes John's Call
Spanish Spur, who had just two horses beat turning for home, weaved his way through the remaining eight horses in the stretch to win Monday's $67,300 John's Call Stakes by three lengths. Cottage was second, one length ahead of Host.
Spanish Spur ($18.80), trained by Jonathan Sheppard, covered the 1 5/8 miles under Cornelio Velasquez in 2:46.29 over a yielding turf course.
It was just the fourth victory in 24 career starts for the 6-year-old gelding Spanish Spur, and his first since winning a 1 3/8-mile allowance race here last Aug. 24.
Business up at halfway point
Ontrack handle is up 13 percent and overall handle has increased 4 percent compared to last year through the halfway point of the Saratoga meet. Attendance is up 1 percent after 18 days.
Total ontrack handle through Monday was $56,643,791, compared with $52,780,252 in 2003. Total handle on Saratoga's races was $267,376,908, compared with $257,350,880 in 2003.
Attendance through the first 18 days was 519,341, compared with 513,025 last year.