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Strong Mandate Fires Champagne Bullet

In his 78 years and lifetime in around horses, Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner D. Wayne Lukas is not surprised by much when he reports to the track each day for morning training.

But Friday was a “gotcha” day for Lukas, who sent his rising star Strong Mandate out on Friday at Churchill Downs for a half-mile work.  It was the first serious training move for the bay colt since his dazzling 9 ¾-length romp in the $300,000 Hopeful (GI) over a sealed muddy track at Saratoga in his most recent start on Sept. 2.

Robert Baker and William Mack’s 2-year-old son of Tiznow stepped onto the fast racing surface at Churchill Downs for a move that Lukas did not intend to be anything special. But the move was yet another indication that Strong Mandate could be a very special horse.

He zipped four furlongs in :47.40 in a work that tied as the fastest of 44 at the distance. Strong Mandate recorded the “bullet” for the day despite an easy first quarter of :24.20 and he galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.20.

The gallop-out time for Lukas’ colt was nearly a second faster than that the five-furlong "bullet" work of 1:01 by Grand Giant, which was the best of 27 moves at that distance on the perfect late-summer morning.

“I don’t time them, but when he went by me I thought it looked like a good little maintenance work and it was just about what we wanted,” Lukas said. “Then when I rode by the clocker on my saddle horse and was told he went seven-and-two, I was really surprised.”
 
Lukas said Friday’s work was a tune-up for a planned run in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park on Oct. 2.

Strong Mandate has a career record of three starts – all at the Saratoga meet – and has a two-race win streak after a fifth-place run in his debut. He won a maiden race on Aug. 17 by 4 ½ lengths prior to his tour de force effort in the Hopeful.
 
“That horse has the ability to do that so easy,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve had one like him for a long time. It’s the same thing when he runs. You think he’s just in a high lope, like he was in the Hopeful. Next thing you know he’s up in :47-and-two.”
 
Lukas said Strong Mandate would probably have “a couple more” works at Churchill Downs before departing for the Champagne.
 

 

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