Thursday, December 08, 2011


Luke of York, who was considered a top candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint after his eye-popping victory in the Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes, makes his dirt track debut Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs in the 27th running of the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes, one of two $75,000-guaranteed events on the 10-race card. Post time for the first race is 12:27 p.m.

The Inaugural and the 33rd annual Sandpiper Stakes for fillies are the centerpieces of the track’s fifth annual Cotillion Festival Day Presented by Lambholm South, celebrating an entire afternoon of 2-year-old racing. “The majority of these youngsters were bred in Florida and represent the hopes and aspirations of their breeders, owners and trainers,” said Tampa Bay Downs Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube.

“We are proud to team with Lambholm South for our Cotillion Festival, and our hope is some of these 2-year-olds progress to contender status for our top 3-year-old races in 2012, including the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Oaks.”

One who might fit the bill is Luke of York, who was bred in Florida by Classic Run Farm and is 2-for-2 thus far, both exciting nose victories. The second, in the $75,000 Anniversary Stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface Oct. 15, came in a driving three-horse finish despite being pinched back at the start.

Trainer James DiVito purchased Luke of York for $23,000 for owners George Michaels and George Messina at the June Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company auction. The offspring of Put It Back-Gion was not nominated for the Breeders’ Cup, and his owners declined to pay a $100,000 supplementary entry fee. Luke of York originally was scheduled to run last week in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream but was scratched because of a minor cough, described by DiVito as “nothing serious.”

The Inaugural is the sixth race on Saturday’s card. Frederic Lenclud, who won four stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last season, has the riding assignment on Luke of York. Top challengers in the all-Florida-bred seven-horse field include Dangerous Trick, a stakes-placed horse trained by Teresa Pompay; Wildcat Creek, trained by Edward Plesa, Jr.; and Straight Fax, 4-for-4 at Calder for trainer Walter Rosas-Canessa.

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