Monday at Saratoga: Lukas lights it up

- -

Even trainer D. Wayne Lukas was surprised when the aptly named Perplexed won the opener Monday and paid $232.50 for Zayat Stables.

“Hell no,” Lukas responded when asked if he bet his entrant in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden claimer. “I said to my wife, he’d be 30-, 35-1, but we didn’t have any grandiose ideas that’s he going to win the race either. You know up here, you never know.”

Wet tracks are known for producing odd results and the sloppy, sealed surface did just that to start off the day. Perplexed had been beaten a total of 72 1/2 lengths in his previous nine races before his win Monday. He finished seventh, beaten 7 1/4 lengths in a similar $20,000 maiden claimer June 3 at Churchill Downs.

“Obviously, I didn’t think he’d win the race,” Lukas said. “I thought he’d run well, but when he cut the corner and was running that easy, I thought ‘he might get there, he’s not that far off and he’s running’ That was fun. He’s been training well, so what the hell. That’s why we run ‘em, we don’t mail ‘em in.”

Jockey Luis Reyes rode Perplexed for Lukas, the first Saratoga victory for the 7-pound apprentice who has ridden in New York since he moved his tack to Aqueduct in late January after riding in Puerto Rico.

“He rode a very nice,” Lukas said. “He didn’t get into that speed early and he cut the corner at the quarter-pole. When he hit the quarter-pole I said, ‘I think I’m going win it.’ ”

Perplexed and Reyes held off 4-5 favorite Your Secret’s Safe to win by a half-length.

“Very, very emotional for me, my first win here,” said the 22-year-old Reyes. “I follow the instructions, which is important for this guy. I see the horses at the three-eighths pole going for the outside, and the inside is good. I go to the space and the horse helped me.”

– Ben Gowans


• Merrill Scherer is back in town and won with his second starter of the meet in the second.

“One thing is, it’s one more than I thought I’d get,” Scherer said.

The trainer – who was won 1,390 races in his career – is back for the first time since 2014 and saddled Morning Buzz to victory in a $25,000 claimer going 7 furlongs on the main track.

“I figured this might be my last run and I like it here, always have,” Scherer said. “There’s no place like this anywhere.”

Scherer owns Morning Buzz with Daniel Lynch and Ken Sentel. The trio claimed him out his last race, a 1 1/16-mile claimer at Churchill Downs June 11. The $25,000 investment proved to be a good one.

Morning Buzz was claimed for $25,000 by trainer David Cannizzo for Mike Repole’s Repole Stable. Originally scheduled for 1 mile on the turf, Monday’s race was moved to the main track due to the rain overnight and through the morning. Morning Buzz drew into the race as one of two on the main track only list.

“About time, huh? Them guys have been sleepin’ on me a little bit lately,” Scherer said of his fortune with the weather gods Monday. “Everything I got we took to come here with. We claimed a few before the meeting, hopefully we get lucky you know and win like this one did and if they claim them, who cares? Like I said, the last hurrah.”

– Ben Gowans


• Anita Cauley beamed alongside trainer Ian Wilkes as they entered the winner’s circle to meet her homebred filly Fuhriously Kissed following her victory in the seventh – a 1 1/8-mile allowance on the sealed and sloppy main track.

“It’s amazing,” said Cauley. “I’ve been here before with a horse or two, but this is my first time winning so this is very special.

“I sent her for a break and she went to Florida, Barry Eisaman’s farm down there, and she blossomed with her time off. When she came to Ian, I didn’t think I was going to have her up here but Ian said he really wanted her to come up. I said, ‘if you’re willing to bring her up here it’s all on you.’ ”

The 4-year-old Langfuhr filly started with Wilkes this spring, after starting her career with Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage. She made nine starts for Hartlage, winning twice. Fuhriously Kissed returned from a seven-month layoff for Wilkes in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance on a sloppy track at Churchill June 22, finishing second.

“She’d come to me off a layoff and it’s just my style of training to have a short race, a 1-turn race,” Wilkes said. “She wants to run long, she does everything right. She gets into a rhythm and is really something. I know she can handle the mud, she beat me before when I didn’t have her. So I knew she’d handle it and Julien (Leparoux) rode her great. She just wants to drop back, make one run and did everything great.”

Based in Kentucky, Cauley raced the filly’s dam, graded stakes placed mare French Kiss, by Hussonet. French Kiss is out of the stakes-winning mare Ornate, also the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner On Fire Baby.

“It is fun,” said Cauley. “She has in the family a filly who actually came up here and raced against some really good fillies, the sister is On Fire Baby. I love Langfur, I know he’s an older stallion but I just don’t think he gets the respect that he deserves. I’ve always loved that, to look at some proven stallions.”

– Shayna Tiller


• Tyler Gaffalione’s mount Eila was scratched out of the Caress, but Gulfstream Park’s top jockey quickly made amends in the next race and rode Alien Invasion to victory in the finale.

“It’s my first time riding here – it’s incredible,” Gaffalione said. “I’m so happy to be here, let alone ride, but to win one is truly amazing.”

Alien Invasion won the New York-bred maiden special weight going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf in his career debut. The 2-year-old son of Desert Party raced third as My Mr. Wonderful and Joe’s Smokin Gun through splits of :23.09 and :47.24 before switching four wide into the stretch for his rally.

Gaffalione and Alien Invasion wore down pacesetter My Mr. Wonderful in the final sixteenth to win by half-length.

Based in Florida and the winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey in 2015, Gaffalione plans to return to Saratoga frequently during the meet.

“We’re going to ride here on my dark days and then I’ll ride in Miami during the week,” Gaffalione said. “We’ll ship up here on some weekends, it just depends on the business.”

– Madison Scott