09/02/2013 5:01PM

Saratoga: Strong Mandate dominates Hopeful Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Jose Ortiz celebrates his first Grade 1 victory aboard Strong Mandate, who won the Hopeful Stakes by 9 3/4 lengths Monday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In what should be the twilight years of his career, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is not going quietly into that good night.

Lukas celebrated his 78th birthday in style Monday, sending out Strong Mandate to a 9 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful Stakes on closing day at muddy Saratoga. Casiguapo, a 30-1 shot, finished second by three-quarters of a length over Lunarwarfare.

Big Sugar Soda, Wired Bryan, Long On Value, All in Blue, King Cyrus, Corfu – the 7-2 favorite – and Southern Blessing completed the order of finish.
It was the seventh win for Lukas in the Hopeful, a race he first captured in 1990 with Deposit Ticket a few weeks before he turned 55.

“I thought he’d run huge,” said Lukas, who trains Strong Mandate for Robert Baker and William Mack. “I was a little concerned about the [wet] surface – you always are. He had a really good prep race; he hadn’t done anything but move forward since then. I thought we’d get a good one. You never expect to waltz home like that though.”

Jose Ortiz, 20, rode Strong Mandate and celebrated his first Grade 1 victory by raising his right hand triumphantly in the air as the horse galloped out.
“I’m very happy,” Ortiz said. “I’m very excited; it’s my first Grade 1.”

Strong Mandate, a son of Tiznow out of the Grade 1-winning mare Clear Mandate, was coming off a 4 1/2-length maiden victory in his second start just 16 days earlier. He had debuted here July 22, running fifth behind Big Sugar Soda, a race Lukas said was used as a learning experience.
Strong Mandate obviously is a quick study.

After setting the pace in winning his Aug. 17 race, Strong Mandate, breaking from post 9, sat third behind the pacesetting Corfu and Wired Bryan through a quarter-mile in 22.47 seconds before moving into second after a half-mile in 45.15.

“I asked him a little bit because I knew [Corfu] is a tough horse,” Ortiz said. “I cracked him one time on his shoulder, and he put me right beside him. I knew I had a lot of horse.”

Ortiz gave Strong Mandate another right-handed crack of the whip turning for home, and Strong Mandate took off. He basically was geared down in the final sixteenth of a mile, covering seven furlongs in 1:23.55 and returning $16.60.

“He’s a big, strong, powerful horse, but he’s got a little bit of a kick to him,” Lukas said. “I told Jose, ‘Don’t be so surprised if you’re laying right there.’ ”
Lukas said his objective is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. He said he would consider a two-turn race for Strong Mandate’s next start and mentioned the Grade 1, $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

Lukas added the Hopeful win to his Preakness victory with Oxbow in May and his Travers Stakes win with Will Take Charge in August.

On Saturday, Eric Guillot, the trainer of the Travers runner-up Moreno, accused Luis Saez, the rider of Will Take Charge, of using an electrical device, commonly referred to as a battery, on Will Take Charge. The New York State Gaming Commission, with assistance from the New York State Police, is investigating.

“I’ve always risen above all that malarkey,” Lukas said. “Let them run the tapes, look through it; it’ll be fine.”