Sunday, February 01, 2015

Lukas Thinking More Conservatively With “Brandi”

Moments after Take Charge Brandi’s victory in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn, owner Willis Horton left the door open for his champion to challenge males in upcoming months.
As expected, the 3-year-old filly’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, quickly closed that door early Sunday morning.

Lukas, who said Take Charge Brandi emerged from her Martha Washington victory in good order, reiterated she’s being pointed for the Kentucky Oaks – not the Kentucky Derby – and her next two scheduled starts remain the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4 at Oaklawn.

“He’s having fun with it, I think,” Lukas said of Horton’s post-race reference to running Take Charge Brandi in the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby. “The plan is still the Honeybee, Fantasy and Oaks.”

Take Charge Brandi edged Sarah Sis by a head to win the Martha Washington, the fourth consecutive victory for the Eclipse Award winner (2-year-old filly).

Ridden for the first time by Jon Court, Take Charge Brandi cruised on a clear, uncontested lead through a modest :48.10 half-mile before Sarah Sis, on the inside, drew abreast in deep stretch. But, Take Charge Brandi fought back in the short run to the wire – mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole – to record her fourth career stakes victory.

Lukas said the outcome again illustrated Take Charge Brandi’s will to win. None of her five career victories have been by more than 2 ½ lengths. Three of those career victories, including the $350,000 Starlet (G1) Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos, have been by a half-length or less.

“She’s very workmanlike,” Lukas said. “She knows how to win races. She’s cruising along, very relaxed, and then that horse comes to her and she surges back and wins. At Los Alamitos, two or three of them did that to her, and she surged every time they came. Jon, I think, got a little bit complacent and relaxed there, too.”

Victor Espinoza rode Take Charge Brandi to her victories in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Starlet, but was unavailable for the Martha Washington because of commitments in Southern California, Lukas said.

Lukas said he “assumes” Court will ride the filly back in the Honeybee because the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (G1) is also run March 7, and Espinoza is the regular rider of reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome, an expected starter.

There are also three other stakes on the March 7 program at Santa Anita.

Lukas said Court followed instructions Saturday, notably not to use the whip. (the trainer said she normally doesn’t need the stick because she’s so “genuine”).

“We told him to just cruise around there, get the money and let’s go for the next one,” Lukas said.

Street Talk

Trainer Randy Morse said Street Strategy, a dazzling 4 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner Friday, came out the race well, but “won’t run back for a while.” He said when Street Strategy, resurfaces, it will be in another allowance spot, although the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11 could be a long-range target if the colt continues to progress.

“But we’re going to take it step by step,” Morse said Sunday morning. “We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves.”

A 4-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Street Strategy was making his first start since finishing sixth in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) last March.

Morse said Street Strategy tore the main supporting ligament in his stifle in the Rebel, an injury the trainer believed occurred at the start 1 1/16-mile race. He described as the injury as “real rare.” Friday’s victory came exactly a year since the lightly raced gray colt broke his maiden by 6 ½ lengths in his two-turn debut.

“Any time a horse is coming off almost a year’s layoff going a mile on this deep of a track, yeah, you have to be concerned,” Morse said. “On the other hand, if he was good as I think he is, he’s supposed to beat those kind of horses.”

Street Strategy, under Calvin Borel, covered a mile over a fast track in a sharp 1:38.20.

Owner Dave Clark, who resides in Little Rock, Ark., and Naples, Fla., purchased Street Strategy for $425,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training. He has lifetime earnings of $84,300 off two victories from four starts.
 
Finish Lines

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Mr. Z will work Tuesday morning under Jon Court in preparation for the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 16. Lukas said Court will retain the mount on Mr. Z for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. Mr. Z is coming off a troubled third in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 19. … Trainer Randy Morse said he decided not to breeze Grade I winner Moonshine Mullin Sunday morning because of a sloppy track. Morse said Moonshine Mullin will have his first breeze back in the next few days and is hopeful the 7-year-old can still make his 2015 debut in the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 14. Moonshine Mullin hasn’t started since becoming a millionaire, and providing Morse with his biggest career victory, in the $500,000 Stephen Foster (G1) June 14 at Churchill Downs because of a tiny ligament tear in an ankle. … Saturday’s off-track mutuel handle of $3,830,061 was the highest for a non-Arkansas Derby Day since March 15, 2014 (Rebel Day).
 
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