03/23/2011 4:47PM

Oaklawn Park: Derivative cuts back for hot Lukas barn

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas can keep his strong Oaklawn Park meet rolling in the ninth race Friday, when he sends out Derivative in the $50,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds. The race, which has first-level allowance conditions, is to be run over six furlongs. It drew a field of nine, including impressive debut winner Fudgesicle.

Lukas has been a force in the Oaklawn standings since the start of the meet, and heading into this week’s races led all trainers with 20 wins, four more than runner-up Allen Milligan. But with a month still left to go, Lukas is not accepting accolades on his big season at Oaklawn.

“Don’t throw any flowers at us yet,” he joked.

Derivative makes a couple significant moves for the Friday feature. He is returning to racing against straight 3-year-olds after finishing third against older rivals in an entry-level allowance at Oaklawn on March 13. Derivative also is cutting back to one turn and was effective at the trip earlier in the meet, when second in a maiden special weight Jan. 17.

Derivative won a maiden special weight one start later, going a mile at Oaklawn on Feb. 12. He set the pace en route to a 5 3/4-length win, which set him up for a start in the Grade 3 Southwest. Derivative also laid down the fractions in that race before finishing eighth and then rebounded with his third-place effort in the allowance March 13, a race that served as the two-turn debut of the well-regarded Uncle Brent.

Derivative figures to be making his case in the later stages on the cutback. Terry Thompson has the mount on the horse, a son of Mr. Greeley who races for Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack.

Fudgsicle showed excellent speed in his career debut, when he shot to the lead at the start of a $50,000 maiden claiming sprint at Oaklawn on March 3 and never looked back, winning by a neck. For the effort, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 70, which is the best last-race number in Friday’s field.

Fudgesicle, who is trained by Mac Robertson, will break from the rail under Joe Rocco Jr. He could face pace pressure from Peace Cat, a front-runner who exits a 5 1/2-furlong race, and Magestic Wildcat, who set the pace in his last start at Oaklawn. If the fractions are honest, it would set the plate for Derivative, who is the lone Triple Crown nominee in the field.