Lukas’ Top 3-Year-Olds Ready Sooner Than Expected

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had planned to take his time with Take Charge Brandi, but the probable 2-year-old filly champion had other ideas.

Lukas said Take Charge Brandi is now pointing for the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 at Oaklawn Park, her first step toward an expected appearance in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 1 Churchill Downs.

Lukas said late last month that Take Charge Brandi would make her 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 at Oaklawn, but decided to accelerate her racing schedule because of her body language.

“I think the mile is a logical choice,” Lukas said, referring to the Martha Washington distance. “She’s so sharp I can’t hardly do anything with her. She’s just tearing the barn down, so I might as well run her.”

Take Charge Brandi tuned up for the Martha Washington by working a half-mile in :51 over a surface rated good Monday morning at Oaklawn.

Owned by Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark., Take Charge Brandi cemented her status as the country’s champion 2-year-old filly with her third straight victory in the $350,000 Starlet Stakes (G1) Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos. Her streak began with the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 1 and was followed $400,000 Delta Princess (G3) Nov. 22 at Delta Downs.

After the Martha Washington and Honeybee, Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes series for 3-year-old fillies concludes with the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4.

In addition to Take Charge Brandi, Lukas’s top male, Mr. Z, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 Monday in prepara-tion for his 3-year-old debut in Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

Lukas said Jon Court will ride Mr. Z, who was narrowly beaten in the $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) Dec. 20 and the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 22 at Delta Downs.

Mike Smith rode Mr. Z in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but will ride Far Right – a troubled third in the Delta Jackpot – in the Smarty Jones, trainer Ron Moquett said.

The one-mile Smarty Jones closed Sunday with 44 nominations. In addition to Mr. Z and Far Right, the large field is expected to include Springboard Mile winner Bayerd, who will be ridden by Ramon Vazquez.  

Oaklawn Runners Prominent Among Eclipse Award Nominations

Five horses who raced at Oaklawn last year, including three stakes winners, are finalists for Eclipse Awards, the equine equivalent of the Oscars.

Bayern, who ran third in the Arkansas Derby, is one of three finalists for Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

Close Hatches (Apple Blossom and Azeri winner) and Don’t Tell Sophia (Pippin and Bayakoa winner) are among three finalists for champion older female.

Work All Week (Hot Springs winner) is one of three finalists for champion male sprinter.

Stopchargingmaria (fourth in the Fantasy) is among three finalists for champion 3-year-old filly.

Take Charge Brandi, who is wintering at Oaklawn, is one of three finalists for champion 2-year-old filly.

D. Wayne Lukas, who trains the daughter of Giant’s Causeway, said he believes Take Charge Brandi will win the award after closing the year with three consecutive graded stakes victories, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Starlet (G1).

“You won the Breeders’ Cup against the whole world and then came back to win another grade I,” Lukas said. “Two grade Is should do it in itself.”

Winners will be announced Saturday night during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park in suburban Miami.

2014 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order):

Horse of the Year:        Bayern, California Chrome, Main Sequence         
Two-Year-Old Male:          American Pharoah, Hootenanny, Texas Red
Two-Year-Old Filly:           Condo Commando, Lady Eli, Take Charge Brandi
Three-Year-Old Male:       Bayern, California Chrome, Shared Belief
Three-Year-Old Filly:        Stopchargingmaria, Sweet Reason, Untapable   
Older Male:                        Main Sequence, Palace Malice, Wise Dan                     
Older Female:                    Close Hatches, Dayatthespa, Don’t Tell Sophia
Male Sprinter:                    Goldencents, Private Zone, Work All Week  
Female Sprinter:                Artemis Agrotera, Judy the Beauty, Sweet Reason                     
Male Turf Horse:                Karakontie (JPN), Main Sequence, Wise Dan
Female Turf Horse:            Crown Queen, Dayatthespa, Stephanie’s Kitten
Steeplechase Horse:            Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Makari (GB)
Owner:                                Kaleem Shah, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Ken and Sarah Ramsey
Breeder:                              Adena Springs, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Winchell Thoroughbreds          
Trainer:                                Bob Baffert, Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher       
Jockey:                               Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, John Velazquez
Apprentice jockey:             Angel Cruz, Taylor Rice, Drayden Van Dyke

BOLD indicates raced at Oaklawn in 2014

Finish Lines

Brewing took another step toward his 4-year-old debut by zipping a half-mile in :48.60 Monday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. A multiple stakes-winning sprinter last year at Oaklawn (Gazebo and Bachelor), Brewing hasn’t started since May because of an ankle injury. … Two-time defending champion Don’t Tell Sophia is among 20 older fillies and mares nominated to Saturday’s $100,000 Pippin Stakes. Trainer Phil Sims said the Eclipse Awards finalist is “50-50” to make the race because of weather-related training setbacks. … Mufajaah, who is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in the Pippin, worked 5 furlongs in 1:03 Monday morning. … Street Strategy, unraced since last year’s Rebel because of a leg injury, worked a half-mile in :47.60 after Monday morning’s renovation break under Calvin Borel. … Training began on time Monday after being delayed an hour Sunday morning because of lingering winter weather.

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