08/08/2012 4:31PM

Saratoga: Optimizer back on best surface in Hall of Fame Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
After getting beat a combined 58 1/4 lengths in the Triple Crown races this spring, trainer D. Wayne Lukas moved Optimizer back to turf. Optimizer starts in Friday’s Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Though he ran Optimizer in all three Triple Crown races, trainer D. Wayne Lukas knew that the colt’s preferred surface was turf.

Friday, Lukas returns Optimizer to his favorite turf course when he runs him in the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga. Optimizer, who won his career debut over Saratoga’s turf course, will be coupled with Skyring. Both horses are owned by Bluegrass Hall LLC.

In addition to winning his debut on turf, Optimizer finished second to Dullahan in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes, also at Saratoga. Following a third-place finish to Dullahan in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, Lukas kept Optimizer on the dirt from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile through the Belmont Stakes. The horse was beaten 58 1/4 lengths combined in the three Triple Crown races.

In his return to turf, Optimizer finished fourth in the Virginia Derby. Lukas was not tame in his criticism of jockey Horacio Karamanos’s decision to take Optimizer off the inside part of the course turning for home.

“He very easily could have been second,” Lukas said. “That kid made a terrible decision at the three-sixteenths pole – I mean unbelievably bad, it made me want to throw up. He was doing a good job riding him up to the three-sixteenths pole, they gave him a clear path along the rail, and he jerks him across the heels of three horses and tries to go outside. I couldn’t believe it.”

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Junior Alvarado will ride Optimizer for Lukas from post 5 in the Hall of Fame.

Lukas’s other entrant, Skyring has made only two starts on turf. He won the James Murphy at Pimlico and finished third, beaten a neck, in the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington on July 14. He will be ridden for a second straight time by Joel Rosario.

Daddy Nose Best also won his maiden up here last summer and competed in two-thirds of the Triple Crown, finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby and ninth in the Preakness. He, too, returned to turf in the American Derby, where he finished fourth, beaten just three-quarters of a length.

“It looked like a merry-go-round,” trainer Steve Asmussen said of the American Derby. “Just where he was off a moderate pace, he comes three wide just off their hip and finished off their hip.”

Chad Brown won last year’s Hall of Fame Stakes with Big Blue Kitten, who started in the claiming ranks before reeling off five consecutive victories.

This year, Brown sends out Yari, who began in the claiming ranks and has won three of his last four, losing the other race by a nose.

“He belongs with these horses. He’s a horse on the improve, he’s training great,” Brown said. “He doesn’t need the lead, he’s ended up there due to a smart decision by the riders. Rosie [Napravnik] rode him great last time. I think she rode technically a beautiful race on him, but he’s certainly not a need-the-lead horse.”

Shkspeare Shaliyah, Csaba, Spring to the Sky, and Quick With complete the field.

chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
With about 7 min to post... I hope Gleaves gets awakened to just how bad Leap-a-roo rides(?).
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Csaba shoulda win it... Leap-a-roo 2nd best.
Jerry Hoeft More than 1 year ago
I still appreciate Lukas for one reason, he's the one man trying to prove that racing has changed for the worst. 20, 30, 40 years ago...horses ran 8 to 10 times before the triple crown and then ran all 3 triple crown races. I'm not saying Lukas managed this horse entirely correct, but why are so many trainers so cautious with their horses these days? Is it strictly they are drugged up so much they can not run more than 7 or 8 times a year? I don't get it. Even the great Zenyatta was fun to watch, but 5 races as a 5 year old? Come on! Racing has changed for the worst. It's not as exciting. Horses win a big race, then skip what used to be the "next" prep. You don't see many run in the Whitney, then the Woodward if they win the first. They just save them for one more prep if any before the BCC. I just don't get it. These horses now days to me, are by no means in the same class as horses 20 years ago. We may never see another triple crown winner for this very same reason.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Two great reports for you to read, one from Dr Gregory Ferrarro and the other from Dr Deb Bennett dealing with maturation of the skeletal maturation and the long term effects of drugs in the system of the horse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your seeing it again with Lukas' two year olds like Hightail, sends him in the Sanford Stakes as a 3 time loser at 53-1. How and why does Bluegrass Hall keep sending him $400,000 auction horses and getting nothing in return? I can understand why his friends like Bob Knight or Bill Parcells invest with a group of other people and send him a lesser horse out. But at Bluegrass Hall its not a hobby its a business. Did anyone notice how quickly he was dropped from the Legends Stable? I HURTS to write this because he was really nice to me as a just an ordinary racing fan back in the 80s and 90s....look I don't want to say anymore I like too much. Thanks for the memories D Wayne.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
So do you think he'll ride Karamanos back, or better, do you think Horacio would TAKE the mount? It'd be nice to see the jocks get together and the program read the world-famous 'No Boy' listed. Let Lukas have the house rider...
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I watched The Virginia Derby. It was a bad ride and even with a good ride, Optimizer would not have beaten Silver Max. Lukas has destroyed this colts chances. He needs a break. It's true that Lukas has ruined thousands of quality horses in his quests for victories in top races. Now that he has to actually train a horse he is just a mediocre thrainer at best. His protege's are the same. It's sickening how these factory type trainers overtrain andruin good stock.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“He very easily could have been second,” Lukas said. “That kid made a terrible decision at the three-sixteenths pole – I mean unbelievably bad, it made me want to throw up. You know what makes me want to throw up? Throwing a decent horse to the wolves on a surface he doesn't care for..............As for all you posters who write about Lukas's success, since when, the 90's? He has been irrelevant for years. If I were Bluegrass Hall LLC, I would take every single English Channel out of Lukas's care and give them to a trainer that knows what to do with a turf horse and doesn't need to have a horse in every big dance whether it belongs or not. Turnbackthealarm
Mable Roberts More than 1 year ago
Couldn't agree more... and couldn't care less for Lukas...
Ange More than 1 year ago
This colt has won a maiden allowance, 2 seconds in Grade 2's and a third in a Grade 1. How about dropping him down to easier company? The horse isn't a stakes horse! Thirteen starts and he's only managed to break his maiden. A trainer with some brains would change course.
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Frank More than 1 year ago
Comparing a basketball legend to the butcher of horse racing???? Shame on you!
Two400 More than 1 year ago
It seems to me that if a horse can finish second twice in two Grace 2's, and third in a Grade 1, then that horse IS a stakes horse!
Ange More than 1 year ago
Yes and no. A horse that hasn't won a race in 12 starts needs to get his confidence back. And a good trainer would do that by running him in a few easy spots. If he can win 1 or 2 races, you then can try the big dogs again. But just because he runs a 2nd here and there doesn't mean he's a stakes horse, he just might have hit an easy field or had everything go his way.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Gee the Jockey made a bad decision in the VA Derby. Lukas is terrible -- What about his pathetic, terrible, mis management of this horse by running him in all 3 TC races? What in the heck is this guy's problem. He is the reason and him alone is why this horse has lost all races but one. Lukas is not a trainer -- He is the "Butcher of horses".
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Frank More than 1 year ago
Check his record. He was given endless amounts of the best stock in the sport by Eugene Klien, Bob Lewis (sometimes) and Overbook farm. Now that the best owners and money is gone what does he have to fall back on? Nothing. He cant even take a good/descent horse (i.e. Dublin, Optimizer) and set them up to win. He has abused horses for many years by going through endless yearlings and running them into the ground. Now he gets nothing and amounts to nothing -- thank you racing gods.
Dave More than 1 year ago
Earth to D. Wayne... Maybe if you didn't run this poor horse into the ground in all three TC races, he would have won the VA Derby regardless of the jockey!
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
What an idiot ! And what is the owner thinking that lets him do this ?
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Besides the hefty purse money, races at Saratoga are quite sad so far. Please cut down on the number of racing days and card more route races on dirt. 1) They have got to make it a 6.5 weeks meet, 5 days per week, start on the last saturday of July, and end on the first Sunday of September. A 32-day meet, 10 races per card except for 12 races on Saturdays. 2) Route races should feature 40-60% higher purses than sprint races for all level of races, not just the graded stakes races. Currently the G1 sprint races are worth about 50% of their G1 route counterparts, but the purses for the sprint and route races are about the same. 3) Trainers must enter at least the equal number of route starters as sprint runners for any given week. Each trainer could have more route starters than sprint, but not the other way round. NYRA should then be able to card more route races without fear of them not filling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I went to Saratoga (from mid-west) every year from 1988 to 1994 staying the week of the Travers. I know in terms of horse racing these days that is a very long time genetically. But everyday was fantastic. Even the races that were not stakes would have an occasional horse that had not run since the Breeders Cup starting back in an allowance race. Maybe it is my memory but I didn't remember so many claiming races and some many state bred races. I agree shorten it up increase the quality. If I went back today maybe I'd just go Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Maybe I'd drive up and see Fort Ticonderoga, some thing I would have never considered doing earlier since back then I didn't want to miss a day.
Dave More than 1 year ago
I wish it were 5 days instead of six, but they have no incentive to change. The races are filling and the place is full as far as I can tell. It's still the best 6 weeks of action that you're going to get as a racing fan. A good betting race is a good betting race whether it's 20K claimers or NY breds. The racing secretary chooses what to card based on where the trainers want to run their horses. If there was heavy demand for dirt routes, that is what he would card. But I don't think there is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understand and agree. It's just that for me it's no longer a vacation destination coming from the midwest. It's not even something that would lure me to the OTB on a Wednesday. I know that doesn't matter to Saratoga especially when the stands a full.