Lukes Alley narrowly prevails in Gulfstream Turf

LukesAlleyHALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – As consistent as he had been, Lukes Alley still took his game to another level Saturday. The Ontario-bred Lukes Alley won his first stakes on turf and his first Grade 1 by wearing down Shining Copper in a hard-fought 34th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

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Lukes Alley, with Paco Lopez up, prevailed by a neck for his eighth win in 14 career starts while The Pizza Man, the evenmoney favorite in a field of eight older horses, labored most of the 1 1/8-mile trip when checking in fifth.

Lukes Alley, said trainer Josie Carroll, “is a gutsy horse. We knew he’d go down fighting if he lost, but he gutted it out. The horse really deserves this.”

As Shining Copper and jockey Joel Rosario cut out fractions of 24.54 seconds, 48.12, and 1:13.63, the field crept closer at the top of the lane, with Lopez swinging out his mount for a clear run. It took the length of the stretch, but Lukes Alley finally poked his head in front of a gritty Shining Copper a few strides from the wire. He returned $12.20 after finishing in 1:48.20 over a firm course.

Bred and owned by Eugene Melnyk, Lukes Alley now has six wins and four seconds from his last
10 starts. Most of those races, however, had come over the Polytrack at his home base of Woodbine in Canada.

“He’s good on either surface,” said Carroll. “Mr. Melnyk breeds a very, very good horse. I was always felt like we were coming into this with a good chance.”

Lukes Alley, a 6-year-old horse by Flower Alley, earned $210,490, lifting his bankroll to $758,956. His prior graded wins had come in the fall of his 4-year-old year, in the Grade 3 Durham Cup and Grade 2 Autumn, both on Polytrack.

Clearly the disappointment in the race was The Pizza Man, a 2015 divisional finalist in the older turf-horse division. Vanned here from New Orleans in mid-week, the 7-year-old Illinois-bred The Pizza Man lagged near the back most of the way and had no major response when asked by jockey Javier Castellano leaving the half-mile pole.

The $2 exacta (1-8) paid $67, the $1 trifecta (1-8-4) returned $216.90, and the 10-cent superfecta (1-8-4-7) was worth $78.66.