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2023 Lukas Classic Preview | Clapton Could Give Summers 2nd Churchill Downs Stakes Win
Clapton (Coglianese Photos / Lauren King)

2023 Lukas Classic Preview | Clapton Could Give Summers 2nd Churchill Downs Stakes Win

Trainer Chad Summers made a splash in 2018 at Churchill Downs when his multiple Grade I-winning New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits won the Lukas Classic (Grade II).

Five years later, Summers is back at the Louisville racetrack for the Lukas Classic with RRR Racing’s recent private purchase Clapton.

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“It’s great coming back here,” Summers said. “Hopefully it can be like 2018 again. This horse has a lot of talent and has competed well against some top horses this year.”

Clapton is owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi, a royal politician in the United Arab Emirates. The Sheikh is not a stranger to racing in both the UAE and the U.S. Before making his resurgence into racing earlier this year, he campaigned 2018 UAE Oaks (GIII) winner Rayya, who subsequently finished 13th in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

Prior to Summers taking the helm, Clapton was trained by South Florida-based Juan Alvarado. Most notably, the 4-year-old son of Bretheren sprung a 21-1 upset in the Ghostzapper Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park. Following that race, Alvarado shipped Clapton to the East Coast where he finished third in the Pimlico Special (GIII) and second in the Suburban (GII) at Belmont Park.

After the Suburban, Clapton was transferred to Summers and ran fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Saratoga.

“He went pretty wide into the stretch last time out,” Summers said. “He ran a good race and was only beaten 2 ¼ lengths for it all. There are three races this weekend for older route horses: the Woodward (at Belmont Park), the Awesome Again (at Santa Anita) and the Lukas Classic. I thought this race would set up best for him and there is some speed in the race that should benefit him.”

Similar to 2018, Summers shipped in Mind Your Biscuit’s exercise rider Ricky Elliott to help gallop Clapton ahead of Saturday’s race. The duo went to the track Wednesday around 5:45 a.m. for a light training session. Clapton was scheduled to school Wednesday in Race 5 and go to the gate Thursday morning during training.

Here is the complete Lukas Classic field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):

  1. Happy American (James Graham, Neil Pessin, 8-1)
  2. Clapton (Cristian Torres, Chad Summers, 6-1)
  3. Warrant (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 8-1)
  4. Rattle N Roll (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 7-5)
  5. Trademark (Martin Garcia, Vicki Oliver, 12-1)
  6. Blue Devil (Ricardo Santana Jr., Jeff Hiles, 20-1)
  7. Whelen Springs (Jose Ferrer, Lindsay Schultz, 12-1)
  8. Five Star General (Corey Lanerie, Grant Forster, 15-1)
  9. Americanrevolution (Tyler Gaffalione, Todd Pletcher, 5-2)

Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Lukas Classic will go as Race 10 of 11 with a post time of 5:26 p.m. Saturday’s stellar program from Churchill Downs also will feature the $400,000 Ack Ack (GIII) – a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the Dirt Mile (GI) – and the $200,000 Jefferson Cup.

First post is 12:45 p.m.