Excuse me while I take a deep breath. Ready, set, go … Smarty Jones Stakes, Risen Star Stakes, Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Virginia Derby, Hall of Fame Stakes, Optional Claimer at Saratoga, Kent Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Turf, River City, Hollywood Turf Cup. Phew, I did it. I’m tired just reading them all off. Can you imagine actually running in all of those tough races in one calendar year?
D. Wayne Lukas is no shrinking violet, and neither are his horses, as evidenced by the kamikaze like racing schedule of his fine turf horse, Optimizer. Ahhh, notice that I said “turf” horse; as you can see in many of those difficult races, Optimizer the turf horse was not allowed to be a turf horse for much of the year. And not only did he race in many of the biggest dirt races of 2012, but to say this colt danced every dance, is like saying that little pink bunny has some staying power.
Yesterday, in the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds, the Optimizer Bunny notched his second stakes win on turf with an emphatic 3 ½ length score over String King. Under his most familiar rider, Jon Court, Optimizer spurted right out to the early lead with a strong first quarter, and then slowed down the pace of the 1 1/16 mile turf affair. Over a course rated good, the four year son of turf champion, English Channel, then coasted home an easy winner in 1:46.22, while notching his fourth career win from 20 starts.
“I thought (Optimizer) handled (the course) real well,” said Court. “I knew he should run really good today and was counting on it. Mr. Lukas is having some luck there at Oaklawn so I wanted to make sure I could bring some of that luck with Optimizer here today.”
“I think he likes these distances,” Court added of yesterday’s win and the two races that will follow it in Fair Grounds’ three race grass series. “If the race sets up I think he’s capable of going a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s got that in him, but it’s a matter of how things set up. He can handle it, especially on the grass. Anything over a mile is in his favor.”
I couldn’t agree more with the experienced Mr. Court, “especially on the grass,” that is the key. Optimizer has been going hot and heavy now ever since his career debut back in August of 2011 at Saratoga. A race, that not coincidentally was on the turf. It seems that Lukas knew early on that this one was best suited for the green stuff. Hopefully the great dirt experiment, or win one more Triple Crown race for D. Wayne, has been left far back in the rearview mirror. Optimizer is a grass horse; a really good one as a matter of fact. He is also an iron horse in this day of no such thing. How can you not root for a horse like this?
Run him at least once a month, Mr. Lukas, there is nothing wrong with that provided a horse thrives from the work. That’s how they used to do it in the old days. Optimizer is a throwback; a really good one as a matter of fact. Just as long as he does it all on the grass … I’ll see you both at the Arlington Million.