December 4, 2022

Derby winner Rich Strike in tough against older Lukas Classic foes

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon wins the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

A year after Knicks Go used the $500,000 Lukas Classic (G2) at Churchill Downs as a springboard to success in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), a strong collection of three-year-olds and up will contest the 2022 edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture on Saturday. While the presence of upset Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike is notable, wagering is likely to center around a trio of older horses.

Art Collector, who won the Woodward (G1) last year, bypasses a repeat bid in that race Saturday to tackle the Lukas Classic. This comes five weeks after the Bill Mott trainee coasted by 4 1/4 lengths in his title defense of the Charles Town Classic (G2).

Hot Rod Charlie, who crossed the wire third in the 2021 Kentucky Derby in his only prior start at Churchill, opened his 2022 account back in February, winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) in Dubai. However, the Doug O’Neill trainee has fallen short in three interim starts, earning minor awards in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Salvator Mile (G3), and Whitney (G1).

Grade 1 veteran Happy Saver has also struggled to make the winner’s circle of late. The Todd Pletcher charge has finished second in five straight stakes appearances since last October, including the Clark (G1) and Alysheba (G2) over this track. He’s also earned silver in the Metropolitan H. (G1) and Whitney behind division stalwarts Flightline and Life Is Good.

Rich Strike has won both starts over the Churchill strip and was only a nose and a neck away from second-place honors in the Travers (G1) last month. The field is rounded out by the older runners King Fury and Chess Chief.

The $300,000 Ack Ack S. (G3) for older horses over a one-turn mile has also come up a competitive affair. Speaker’s Corner, whose early-season wins included the Carter H. (G1), will look to snap a three-race losing skid in the Ack Ack. Following losses to Flightline and Life Is Good, Speaker’s Corner most recently finished fourth as the favorite in the Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar.

Also among the field of 10 is Untreated, who shortens up after earning minor awards in longer events like the Pimlico Special (G3), Suburban (G2), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Fulsome has won Grade 3s at Oaklawn and Mountaineer this term, while stakes winner Senor Buscador out-finished Speaker’s Corner when third in the Pat O’Brien. Veterans Silver Prospector and Three Technique have run some of their best races over the Churchill strip.

The winner of the Ack Ack will receive an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland.