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DEL MAR : Lukas Wants Two-Turn Races for Impressive Timber Country

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A trainer with a vision for the future can grow a little frustrated watching his 2-year-olds swallow a steady diet of sprint-length stakes races.

One of those trainers is Wayne Lukas, whose Timber Country ate up the field in the stretch to win the Balboa Stakes on Wednesday. It was Grade III race worth $75,000, run at a mere 6 1/2 furlongs.

“You pay half a million for a horse, and you want him to run around two turns,” Lukas said. “I’m not crazy about running him in sprints.”

The Del Mar Futurity, the closing day feature here, is now run around one turn, or seven furlongs, instead of its previous one-mile format with two turns.

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“That used to be a beautiful race,” Lukas said. “I’d like to see them take this back to seven-eighths and that one back to a mile.”

Two-year-olds just don’t get a chance to stretch their legs.

Timber Country, for one, figures to improve with added distance. He came from behind to win a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs here Aug. 6 and the main question Wednesday was whether he had enough room to rally against better horses at the same distance.

Favored Desert Pirate, the winner of the Graduation Stakes on Aug. 3, set an early pace with Cold N Calculating and Supremo right behind him. Jockey Alex Solis had Timber Country off the pace, where he figures to thrive.

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“I felt like he was going to close,” Lukas said. “I just told Alex to settle in.”

When Solis called upon him, Timber Country had plenty to rally through the middle of the track and defeat Desert Mirage and Supremo at the wire.

“He doesn’t have the speed to go with these kinds of horses early,” Solis said, “but he’s got that late run. He feels like he can run all day.”

Corey Nakatani, Desert Mirage’s jockey, agreed.

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“He’s got a great late run,” Nakatani said. “Wait until they go long. He’ll be laying three or four lengths off them and he’ll blow them down late.”

Lukas thinks so highly of Timber Country that he made the trip from Saratoga to watch him run.

“This horse has a magnificent pedigree,” Lukas said. “His mare (Fall Aspen) is really something, one of the top mares. She’s had winners on both continents, different distances, dirt, grass. . . .”

Timber Country would appear to be Lukas’ next big guy in more than running ability.

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“This horse stood six to eight inches taller than any other horse in this race,” the trainer said. “He’s a big horse with a long stride. He has to gather it together so he can’t get into the early fractions. He’s got a big future.”

However, that big future will be at longer distances. Significantly, the big races down the road as a 2-year-old turns 3 are all around two turns. There are no sprints when it comes to the Triple Crown.

“If I was going to pick a 3-year-old,” Lukas said, “this is the kind of horse I’d start with.”

Next stop: The Del Mar Futurity, Sept. 14.

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Corey Nakatani is Del Mar’s leading jockey after 25 days of the 43-day meeting, and his chances of winning the title are not hurt by Alex Solis’ pending suspension and the fact that many Del Mar jockeys are in Chicago this weekend for Arlington’s International Festival of Racing.

Nakatani had 27 victories after Wednesday, two ahead of Gary Stevens. Kent Desormeaux, winner here for the last two years, is third with 22 victories.

Stevens and Desormeaux will both be at Arlington for at least part of the weekend. Nakatani, in fact, gets Magical Maiden, normally a Stevens horse, in the chase against Paseana and Exchange in Sunday’s Chula Vista Handicap.

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Stevens will be in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, riding Hero’s Love in the Beverly D and Fastness in the Arlington Million. Desormeaux gets Fanmore in the Million and Indian Sun in the Secretariat at Arlington after riding Skiable for Bobby Frankel in the Osunitas Stakes here Saturday.

Alex Solis, the riding champion at Hollywood Park, was to begin a five-day suspension here today, but he remains active pending the result of an appeal.

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Phone Chatter, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year, will make her first start of the year this afternoon as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the $55,000 CERF Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs.

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The winner of four of six starts as a 2-year-old, Phone Chatter broke a cannon bone in her left rear leg in her Breeders’ Cup victory. She has been out since, recuperating from surgery that required three screws to repair the fracture.

Horse Racing Notes

The stewards worked overtime Wednesday, with inquiries after the third, fourth and sixth races. Gift to the World was taken down as the winner of the second race, Properly Married moving up and Gift to the World placed second. Elaine’s Love was placed third after winning the sixth race, I’m Confused getting the victory. . . . Trainer Rodney Rash, already in Chicago for the Arlington weekend, said he would not run Aube Indienne in Saturday’s Osunitas here. However, trainer David Hofmans said Angi Go was a go for the Saturday feature. . . .


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