Updated on 09/17/2011 9:49AM

Orientate couldn't lose in sprints


Of all the different measures of a champion, trainer D. Wayne Lukas stated it neatly at the Eclipse Awards dinner Monday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel: "All these champions have one common thread - they win when they are supposed to."

Orientate was named the outstanding sprinter of 2002, doing more than winning only when expectations were highest. Orientate was honed by Lukas into a brilliant sprinter who, in his championship season, never lost around one turn.

"He started in California, then went to Kentucky and won," Lukas said. "He went to Florida and won, he went to New York and won, and then, he went to Chicago and won again."

A 4-year-old colt by Mt. Livermore, who also was trained by Lukas, Orientate was produced by Grade 1 winner Dream Team - a Lukas star in 1988 - and capped his perfect sprint season with a half-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. In all, Orientate won six races and $1,412,970 from 10 starts, never lost a sprint, and won over five different racetracks.

A $250,000 yearling owned by longtime Lukas clients Bob and Beverly Lewis, Orientate ended up in the sprint division almost by accident. Lukas already had Snow Ridge leading the sprint division early in the season, but when Snow Ridge was injured in midseason and later retired, Lukas recalled, "I looked at Orientate and said - what can he actually do best?"

The answer, it turns out, was sprint. Though Orientate won a mile turf stakes in late December, it was his runner-up performance Jan. 12 in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes that revealed his class and stamped him as a potential star when he would later drop back to one turn.

In the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando, Orientate pressed the fastest two-turn fractions of the Santa Anita winter meet - 44.86 seconds for the half-mile and 1:08.80 for six furlongs, and lost by only a length. It was pure brilliance, and a sloppy-track win at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Commonwealth two starts later put Orientate on his way.

Lukas gave Orientate one final shot on turf in the Shoemaker Mile, then from June through October, Orientate ruled the sprint division. He went to Churchill Downs in June and won the Grade 3 Aristides by 4 1/2 lengths. In July, he shipped to Calder and powered home by six lengths in the Smile Handicap.

Two front-running wins at Saratoga, in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt and Grade 1 Forego, set him up for favoritism in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 26. Bet to 2.60-1 favoritism, Orientate did what a champion does - win when he is supposed to. With Jerry Bailey up, Orientate pressed the pace, hit the front in deep stretch, and cemented his championship in a six-furlong clocking of 1:08.89 over the Arlington track.

Orientate, the 22nd champion trained by Lukas, retired with 10 wins and earnings of $1,716,950 from 19 starts. He will stand stud at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, where he was bred.