Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has called an audible with Sporting Chance and will send the Grade 1 winner to the $1-million, Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes April 7 at Keeneland, the Hall of Fame trainer said Thursday morning.
Lukas had originally targeted the $1-million, G1 Arkansas Derby April 14 at Oaklawn Park for Sporting Chance, who has been based in Hot Springs since late last year. Sporting Chance has run twice at the meet, finishing a troubled third in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19 and a disappointing fifth in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby.
“I have great respect for the horses that are showing up for this one,” Lukas said. “I just think it might be a better fit. Trying to find out the proper keys, the right buttons.”
Lukas said Luis Saez will be reunited with Sporting Chance in the Blue Grass. Saez rode Sporting Chance to a victory in the G1 Hopeful Stakes Sept. 4 at Saratoga and in the Southwest, which marked the 3-year-old debut for the son of Tiznow. Saez opted to ride south Florida-based Magnum Moon in the Rebel for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Magnum Moon, in his stakes debut, remained unbeaten in three career starts with a 3 1/2-length victory.
Magnum Moon is a candidate for the Arkansas Derby, along with unbeaten Justify (2 for 2 this year in Southern California) for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez rode Sporting Chance in the Rebel.
In his first work since the Rebel, Sporting Chance recorded a 5-furlong bullet over a fast track Tuesday morning (:59.20). Clockers caught Sporting Chance's last quarter-mile in :22.80 and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:12.80.
“Best work he's had this spring,” Lukas said. “Real pleased. Excellent work. I thought he looked well within himself. He did everything right. Clearly, the best work he's had all spring.”
Lukas said Luis Contreras worked Sporting Chance Tuesday morning.
Like the Arkansas Derby, the Blue Grass will offer 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Sporting Chance, according to an official news release from Churchill Downs, ranks 41st on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with the two points earned for his third-place finish in the Southwest. Sporting Chance will likely have to finish first or second in the Blue Grass to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. If the race overfills, starting preference is given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated races like the Southwest, Rebel, Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby.
Lukas said Bravazo, a Jan. 13 first-level allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, will not run again until the Kentucky Derby.
Bravazo won the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 17 at Fair Grounds and finished eighth in Saturday's G2Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. With 54 points, Bravazo ranks fourth and is safely in the Kentucky Derby.
“He's assured himself a spot, so I've got the luxury of having six weeks to fine tune him,” Lukas said. “I'll have a nice fresh horse for the Derby, it looks like.”
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