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
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.
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.