LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For a few seconds on the final turn of Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs, it seemed like it was anyone’s race, with four horses within a couple lengths of early leader Honorable Duty.
But it turned out that Honorable Duty, under confident handling by Corey Lanerie, was only toying with the opposition. Once cut loose in the stretch, he quickly accelerated from the pack and won by 4 3/4 lengths under a hand ride while completing 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.42.
Money Flows and Seeking the Soul were heads apart for the runner-up position, with the former proving a stubborn second after Seeking the Soul loomed at the head of the lane.
The biggest surprise of the Lukas Classic was how the race was run. Although Honorable Duty typically races from off the pace, he ended up carving out the early fractions of 48.96 seconds and 1:13.51 after the expected speed, longshot Flashy Jewel, was off a bit poorly.
“My horse kind of caught a flier,” Lanerie said. “He was there with his ears up, effortlessly.”
Winning trainer Brendan Walsh said his inclination was to bypass any Breeders’ Cup races, and instead stick to his original plan to run in the Grade 2 Fayette on Oct. 28 at Keeneland, where Honorable Duty could potentially meet McCraken. A strong showing there could lead to a follow-up start for Honorable Duty in the Grade 1 Clark on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.
The Lukas Classic marked the third graded stakes victory of the year for the winner, a 5-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor owned by DARRS, Inc. Earlier in 2007 he won the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds before runner-up finishes in the Grade 2 Alysheba and Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill during the spring meet.
The Lukas Classic, which honors 82-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, had its fifth running Saturday, and this year’s renewal was its first after gaining graded status.