It's hard to believe now that after the halfway mark, Darrell Wayne Lukas was on the Saratoga duck. No winners, nada, zero.
Then he put a pair of blinkers on a second-time starting 2-year-old named Strong Mandate and the colt went to the front and improved his position, finishing strongly with an excellent display of energy distribution efficiency.
In the Hopeful, over a sealed muddy track, Strong Mandate did it again, only this time he demolished the strongest field of juveniles assembled at Saratoga this year.
And the Coach added to his legend. Happy 78th. Burgoo for all my friends.
Recapping, then, on the morning or August 17, Lukas is on the duck. On the morning after the historical meet closed, he added two more Grade 1s to his Hall of Fame career, the centerpiece Travers and the once and forever iconic Hopeful Stakes.
Sometimes, the Hopeful doesn't measure up. Yesterday it lived up to its name.
The bad news, perhaps, is that the Tiznow-Clear Mandate colt might not be seen in action at Belmont Park which reopens Saturday.
"I'd like to try to find a two-turn race for him," Lukas said post-race. "The race at Santa Anita, used to be called the Norfolk."
It would appear whatever prep Lukas chooses, his colt will show up. Apparently, neither sleek nor slop will stop Strong Mandate from completing his appointed rounds.
"Of course, we were always working backwards from the Breeders' Cup." Hopeful, indeed.