Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, will be honored by Churchill Downs with the naming of a stakes race to be run during its upcoming September Meet that will feature eight stakes events with total purses of $1.025 million.
The $175,000 Lukas Classic, a listed race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, was known as the Homecoming Classic during the first two years of September racing at Churchill Downs. The Lukas Classic, introduced in 2013 and designed to be an autumn prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, shares the September Meet stakes spotlight with events for juveniles that that respectively launch the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks: the Grade III, $150,000 Iroquois for 2-year-olds and the Grade II, $200,000 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and each is included on the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Series schedule. Their respective winners will be guaranteed automatic starting spots in Breeders’ Cup events on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
In renaming the Homecoming Classic to honor the four-time Eclipse Award-winnining trainer, Churchill is saluting Lukas’ accomplishments, contributions and influence on the industry, the track said in a release. Lukas, who bases his stable at Churchill Downs Barn 44 through much of the year, has won a record 14 victories in Triple Crown races, and trained a record 20 winners of Breeders’ Cup Championship races. At Churchill Downs, Lukas ranks second in career stakes victories (73) and fourth in total wins (510).
“Along with the enormity of the numbers of his total victories, the stakes races he has won and earnings by his stable’s horses throughout his Hall of Fame career, D. Wayne Lukas forever changed both the Kentucky Derby and North America’s horse industry,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “It is Churchill Downs’ honor to salute Wayne Lukas by placing his name on this race. We are enthusiastic about the potential of the Lukas Classic and believe it will very soon be an important annual stop for older horses who are working to prepare for and earn starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“We think the presence of Wayne Lukas’ name on this race will enhance its attractiveness and its status. And we would love to see Mr. Lukas do one of the few things he has yet to do during his legendary career. Our team at Churchill Downs is confident that Wayne is a long way from entertaining any thoughts of retirement, and we hope that he will soon saddle a winner of this race, which would allow him – for the first time – to present a winner’s trophy to himself.”
Lukas will celebrate his 80th birthday on September 2. Included in the 26 champions he has trained over his storied career is reigning juvenile filly champion, Take Charge Brandi.
In addition to renaming the race, the purse for the Lukas Classic was also boosted by $50,000. The purse for the Iroquois was also increased by $50,000.
Churchill Downs’ 11-date September Meet operates on a four-day, Thursday-through-Sunday weekly racing schedule with the exception of its first week. Opening day is Friday, Sept. 11 and the meet will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 27. Regular post time for the meet will be 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern), with exceptions being 5 p.m. “Twilight Thursday” racing on September 17 and 24 and the meet’s lone “Downs After Dark”night racing celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a post time of 6 p.m.
The first races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks headline four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 12, the first of three Saturdays of racing during the September Meet. Along with the Pocahontas and Iroquois, that program will feature the $100,000 Locust Grove, a Listed race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on the main track and the $100,000 Open Mind, which matches fillies and mares ages 3 and up at six furlongs on the dirt.
The racing program on Saturday, Sept. 19 features the Grade III, $100,000 Dogwood, and event for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
The final Saturday of September Meet racing on Sept. 26 will offer three stakes events in the Lukas Classic, the Grade III, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at one mile, and the Grade III $100,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course – the only stakes race on grass during the meet.
After the September racing session, Churchill Downs will have one remaining race meet in 2015. The track’s traditional Fall Meet is scheduled for Nov. 1-29 Fall Meet, which will offer 21 racing dates on a weekly Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.