HOT SPRINGS, AR – Sporting Chance took another step toward his 3-year-old debut by working a sharp 1/2-mile Monday morning at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in advance of a possible start in the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes on February 19.
Sporting Chance covered the distance in :47.60 under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who breezed the Grade 1 winner immediately after the break to renovate the racing surface. Clockers caught Sporting Chance’s last 1/4-mile in :23 and galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00.40.
It was the second published work at Oaklawn for Sporting Chance, unraced since winning the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes on September 4 at Saratoga. Lukas said Sporting Chance had a small bone chip from a knee removed after the 7-furlong race.
Hopeful winner Sporting Chance in 4F work (:47.60) @OaklawnRacing under HOF jockey Gary Stevens. Could make 3 y/o debut in $500,000 Southwest (G3), 2/19, per HOF trainer D. Wayne Lukas. pic.twitter.com/xt0K3LNjD0
— Robert Yates (@RobertYates1982) January 15, 2018
Sporting Chance, a winner in 2 of 3 career starts, returned to the work tab last Tuesday, breezing 3 furlongs in :37.
Lukas said that the Southwest and the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes on March 17 at Oaklawn remain potential landing spots for Sporting Chance, with the former becoming a more realistic target.
“He’s an extremely talented horse,” Lukas said on Monday morning. “If he’s fit, I think I can drop right in to the deep end of the pool and take on the seasoned horses because he’s got a beautiful mind and he handles racing very well. Very easy horse to train. Normally you say, ‘Boy, we need some experience.’ But I’m not so sure I can’t put a strong work into him and run him where I want to.”
Lukas has more options with his 3-year-old Triple Crown hopefuls following Saturday’s results at Oaklawn.
Lukas and Stevens teamed to win the fifth race with Bravazo, an Awesome Again colt who won a first-level allowance/optional claimer at a mile, and Transgress, an Into Mischief colt who broke his maiden sprinting (1:10.70 for 6 furlongs) in the ninth race.
Bravazo ran the mile over a fast track in 1:37.74, almost two seconds quicker than Higher Power needed to win the second half of the split race roughly an hour later.
“That was race-horse time,” Lukas said. “It was what, two seconds or (10) lengths better than the other division, and there were some horses in the other division they liked.”
Lukas said that Bravazo has “probably” earned his way for a return to stakes company, but the race is unclear. Bravazo finished second in the Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity on October 7 at Keeneland.
Transgress (shin issues) was making his first start since finishing second in his June 15 career debut at Churchill Downs. The winner, Free Drop Billy, would return to capture the Breeders’ Futurity.
“He ran really well to come off the six-month layoff and run 1:10,” Lukas said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
Lukas said that he believes Transgress will have no trouble handling two turns, but plans are also unclear for his next start.
Sporting Chance and Transgress are both owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, longtime clients of Lukas.
“We’re going to have to juggle these horses,” Lukas said. “We obviously don’t want to double up on them if we can help it.”
In addition to the Southwest, Lukas said that the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 3 at Santa Anita, the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 10 at Tampa Bay, and the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on February 17 at Fair Grounds would all be considered for Bravazo and Transgress.
“I’m going to treat them all like champions and let them disappoint me,” Lukas said with a laugh.