BY BROCK SHERIDAN
Clapton went seven-wide around the far turn and methodically ran down Trademark through the long Churchill Downs stretch to win the Grade 2 Lukas Classic by head Saturday and for his second graded stakes victory of the year.
Ridden by Cristian Torres, the Florida-bred son of Arindel stallion Brethren took the winner’s share of the $438,000 Lukas Classic for 3-year-olds and older who went a mile-and-an-eighth.
Five Star General took the field of eight around the clubhouse turn and led by two lengths ahead of Americanrevolution and Trademark in a joint second with Clapton racing in seventh, 10 lengths off the pace. Five Star General continued to show the way through the first two furlongs in :23.12 and led down the backstretch to complete the half-mile in :46.66 as Clapton began to pass horses nearing the far turn.
Americanrevolution went to the front with a quarter-mile to the finish before Trademark shot to the lead at the top of the stretch with Clapton widest of all and five lengths to make up. Trademark had a length advantage on Clapton and Blue Devil on the rail while passing the sixteenth marker before Clapton surged to the front in the final strides to get the narrow victory in 1:48.79 on the fast track.
Trademark finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Blue Devil in third followed by 6-5 favorite Rattle N Roll. Happy American, Americanrevolution, Whelen Springs and Five Star General completed the order of finish. Warrant was scratched.
Clapton paid $18.32 to win at odds of 8-1.
“I was very happy with the way he was traveling,” Torres said after winning his third race Saturday at Churchill Downs. “Around the half-mile pole, I could tell I had a lot of horse beneath me. I tipped him outside at the quarter-pole and he kept coming with his run. It’s been a great day and a great meet here at Churchill. Winning these big races is a great feeling.”
While still racing for breeder Arindel, Clapton won the Grade 3 Ghostzapper at Gulfstream Park in April, was third behind winner Rattle N Roll in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 19 and second to Charge It in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park on July 8.
He was then purchased by Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid al Nuaimi’s RRR Racing and sent to trainer Chad Summers for the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga on Sept. 2 where he finished fourth, beaten just more than two lengths by winner Bright Future.
Summers then strategically selected the Lukas Classic for Clapton.
“There were three races this weekend we could’ve ran in: the Woodward in New York, the Awesome Again in California and here in the Lukas Classic,” Summers said. “I tried to handicap them and see what race would fit this horse best. I figured there would be the most speed in this race. That benefitted our running style.”
Overall, Clapton has won six of 24 starts with four seconds and six thirds. The $240,560 first prize boosted his career earnings to $823,450.
“I’m so grateful to the owner for allowing me the opportunity to train this horse,” Summers said. “The goal is getting to the Dubai World Cup. If that means taking us to the Breeders’ Cup that would be great. But, the goal is getting him over to Dubai in March.”
He is the only stakes-winner for the Afleet Alex mare Alexandra Rylee, winner of the 2010 Brandywine at Philadelphia Park. She has produced five starters, all winners including Knox, a full brother to Clapton who was third in last year’s FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality. Alexandra Rylee has an unnamed yearling filly by Brethren and was bred to Brethren again in 2023.
Return to Sept. 30 issue of Wire to Wire