The $300,000 Lukas Classic Stakes (G3) will be run at Churchill Downs Saturday night. For three-year-olds and upward, it will be run at 1 1/8 miles with a long run to the clubhouse turn so post position will not be that critical.
HAWAAKOM (#1) (12-1) is a hard-knocking nine-year-old that is still capable. He has a big late kick and consistently runs final BRIS Pace figures over 100. Last out here two weeks ago, he came from 14 lengths behind to miss by a neck at 13-1 going shorter.
BLUERIDGE TRAVELER (#2) (12-1) returned off a 15-month layoff with an even fourth when Ken McPeek added Lasix again. He came back here and beat HAWAAKOM when he sat midpack and wore down his rivals. At level weights and not much back class, he looks in over his head here.
BIG DOLLAR BILL (#3) (15-1) is an unusual horse in that he is a dirt marathoner, not turf. He was third in a Grade 2 going 1 3/4 miles three starts back here and won at Saratoga at the same distance last year. Off for nine months, he returned with an even effort going a mile at Ellis Park and now looks ready for nine furlongs for Ian Wilkes. Even though he is successful going longer, he has a 3-1-1-1 record going this distance.
QUIP (#4) (5-2) won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last year and was a good second in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He came back this year and in his second start off the layoff, he won the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) when stalking the pace on a sloppy track going this distance. He just missed here at course and distance in the Stephen Foster (G2) then did nothing in the Pacific Classic (G1). He could have a pace advantage in here and should be able to avoid any early traffic.
SIR ANTHONY (#5) (15-1) won four starts in a row to finish up last year including a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park on a sloppy track. He has raced all over the country this year at the age of four and won the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) two starts back going this distance in good time at Prairie Meadows. Last out, he raced evenly in a Grade 3 in West Virginia but just looks a cut below these.
TENFOLD (#6) (6-1) when he’s good, he’s real good but he’s not real good often enough. He won the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) last year at this distance at Saratoga but then was off the board the next three starts. He bounced back with a win in the Pimlico Special (G3) then did nothing in his next two starts when moved up in class. Not sure which version will show up today.
PIONEER SPIRIT (#7) (5-1) is a very fast horse that is very consistent and is training like a monster here over the track for Brad Cox. He just missed by a neck two starts back then won the Schaeffer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand in good time and now returns off a 77-day layoff which Brad Cox wins 28% and the last 476 of them show a flat-bet profit. He should be loose on the lead without much pace pressure.
KUKULKAN (#8) (6-1) was a multiple Grade 1 winner on the dirt in Mexico. I like how he has established himself in America off three straight solid efforts, including a win here going two turns against high-class allowance foes. I’m still not sure how good he is but his last start was a bit of a breakthrough in terms of a 103 BRIS Speed rating.
SILVER DUST (#9) (6-1) is a horse for the course that just missed behind PIONEER SPIRIT at Indiana Grand, then he came back and won a Grade 3 at Mountaineer Park. He should be able to sit midpack and be the first to move on the leaders before the deep closers begin their rally.
MOCITO ROJO (#10) (5-1) comes in here off four straight wins, including a two-length win in a Grade 3 at Lone Star. Prolific winner has shown he can handle this class level and has enough gate speed to gain some kind of position going into the clubhouse turn.
Expert Pick for the Lukas Classic
- TOP PICKS
- Pioneer Spirit (#7) (5-1)
- Quip (#4) (5-2)
- Mocito Rojo (#10) (5-1)
- Big Dollar Bill (#3) (15-1)
- $40 Win
- $10 Exacta Key Box
- 7 with 3, 4, 10
- $40 Win
PHOTO: Quip (c) SV Photography