Eugene Melnyk’s Lukes Alley, under leading rider Luis Contreras, notched his first career stakes win with an impressive turn in Saturday’s Grade 3 $174,000 Durham Cup, at Woodbine.
It was the second graded stakes win of the afternoon for the combination of Melnyk and trainer Josie Carroll following Leigh Court’s score in the $200,000 Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In event, at Keeneland.
Lukes Alley, a four-year-old bay son of Flower Alley-Vaulcluse, arrived at the 1 1/8-miles Durham Cup from a driving score in a 10-furlong allowance tilt on September 12. It was just the second stakes start for the lightly-raced colt, having previously finished sixth in the Grade 3 Hawthorne last October.
Are You Kidding Me led the field into the opening turn of the Durham Cup, setting splits of :25.04 and :49.18 with Alpha Bettor and Developer on his flank. Contreras settled Lukes Alley into fourth position down the backstretch just in front of Boisterous and the trailing His Race to Win.
Heading into the far turn, Contreras urged Lukes Alley into gear and despite carrying wide into the lane, the athletic bay straightened out to put away the pacesetter and stay off the late rally of His Race to Win for a ¾-length victory. Lukes Alley covered 1 1/8-miles in 1:49.23, just two ticks off the track record time of 1:48.97 held by River Rush.
Contreras was pleased with the effort from the improving Lukes Alley.
“He was nice and relaxed throughout the race. The only horse I was worried about was His Race to Win,” said Contreras. “My horse came out a little into the stretch, but I switched my whip and at that point he was straight.”
Lukes Alley, bred in Ontario by his owner, banked $108,000 in victory while improving his career record to 5-1-0 from eight starts.
He returned $9.80, $4.90 and $3.30, pairing with His Race to Win ($5, $3.30 for a $34.90 (6-3) exactor. A 6-3-2 (Are You Kidding Me, $4.20 to show) triactor was worth $158.50.