After three futile
runs in the Triple Crown races, Optimizer
is back in his element – grass racing – and ready to go in the
Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame for 3-year-olds on
Friday at the Spa.
Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Optimizer will be joined in
the race by Skyring, another
Bluegrass Hall-owned and -bred son of English Channel.
Optimizer’s sole win in 13 starts came on the grass at Saratoga last year in his
debut. In his most recent race, he finished a rallying fourth in the Grade 2
Virginia Derby after being steadied at the three-sixteenths pole.
Skyring, meantime, scored three races back in the James W. Murphy
Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico. He finished last on the dirt after that in
the Easy Goer in June at Belmont Park and then moved back to the turf and was third,
beaten by just a neck, in the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington Park.
“We decided to put them both in [the Hall of Fame] because
they’re homebreds and [Bluegrass Hall] owns the stallion,” Lukas
said. “It might be an opportunity to showcase English
“We thought about splitting them up and running [one] in the
Secretariat at Arlington.
Optimizer has run well over this turf course, so we’ll see if we can
duplicate that. And they don’t compromise each other. Skyring goes right
to the front and Optimizer comes out of left field.”
Optimizer went off at long odds in each of the Triple Crown races but
was bet down to 5-1 in the Virginia Derby, won by Silver Max. While Skyring
might appear to be in better form, the two colts have similar Beyer Speed
“If you look at the film of the Virginia Derby, Optimizer was
running great and should have gotten second, but he got a terrible ride,”
Lukas said. “The one thing about the English Channels is they really want
to train, and they get better as they get older. English
Channel didn’t win a Grade 1 until he was 4.”