Never count out trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Owned by Willis Horton Racing, the 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon had been largely overlooked at 8-1 in favor of a compelling trio that included 8-5 favorite and grade 1-placed, grade 2 winner West Will Power , Law Professor (5-2), and Ginobili (7-2).
In the early going, the short-priced runners lived up to the expectations. West Will Power hooked up with Law Professor as the field rounded out of the first turn with Ginobili managing a mid-pack stalking position after getting bothered at the break. Last Samurai and jockey Cristian Torres, meanwhile, bided their time near the back for three-quarters of the 1 1/16-mile race.
West Will Power and Law Professor continued running 1-2, respectively, through moderate fractions of :23.74, :47.33, and 1:11.25 until the top of the stretch, where Last Samurai was guided with plenty of running room toward the middle of the track and launched an assault in 1:36.13 that Lukas said he knew the chestnut was capable of delivering. Last Samurai make quick work of dispatching Law Professor and then West Will Power to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The final time was 1:42.19.
Law Professor finished third and Ginobili weakened to finish last.
“We had a long trip to Florida for the Pegasus,” said Lukas about the Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park, where Last Samurai finished fourth by seven lengths. “When we got back to Oaklawn, he was training so darn well, I thought we had a chance to pull this off.”
Lukas also recognized Torres for giving Last Samurai exactly the ride he needed.
“Cristian did what we thought he needed to do. Get clear and let him run,” he said.
Last Samurai will be aimed next for the March 18 Essex Handicap (G3), the next route in the handicap division at Oaklawn, also run at 1 1/16 miles.
“We’ll see him in the Essex and all the way down the line. We don’t duck any of these,” Lukas said.
Lukas has won the Razorback only one other time during his 46-year training career with Thoroughbreds. He last captured this race in 1985 with Imp Society, who won seven graded stakes that year including the Oaklawn Handicap (G2).
Last Samurai was bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings out of the grade 2-placed stakes winnerLady Samuri , multiple stakes-producing daughter of Last Samurai. The mare has a 4-year-old filly by Candy Ride named Candy Raid , who won last year’s Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park. Candy Raid is still in training with Don’t Tell My Wife Stables and co-owner/trainer Keith Desormeaux. She has been working at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and not made her first start of the year yet.
Lady Samuri produced a Maclean’s Music filly last year and is in foal to Essential Quality .