Lukas Hope’s ‘Overachiever’ Ethereal Road Takes To Turf In Saratoga Derby – Horse Racing News


Gilbert and Aaron Sones’ Ethereal Road will try to transfer his dirt talents to turf in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational at Saratoga Race Course for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

A son of Quality Road, Ethereal Road was last seen finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 25 at Thistledown where he tracked in the rear of the field the entire way and made little improvement. The distant effort came on the heels of a strong 4 3/4-length victory in the Sir Barton on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course, a breakout race that showed what the bay colt is capable of.

Lukas said the Ohio Derby is a race he’d rather forget.

“I don’t remember that at all,” Lukas joked. “That was really bad. It just started out bad and got worse. It was a hot day and the track was loose. Every step he made was an effort for him and it was hard to believe it was even him. I’d throw that race right out.”

Despite running his entire career on dirt, Ethereal Road will now try the grass for the first time, something Lukas said he’s been wanting to do for some time with the son of the War Front mare Sustained, who was Grade 3-placed on turf.

“I don’t have any grandiose idea that we’re going to all of a sudden find out that we’ve got a superstar, but I do want to see how he handles the turf and what he does,” Lukas said.

The unassuming Ethereal Road first flashed his talents with a four-length maiden score at fourth asking in January at Oaklawn Park. He quickly became a buzz horse on the road to the Kentucky Derby when a close second to upset winner Un Ojo in the Grade 2 Rebel at the same track, but followed that effort with a distant seventh in the Grade 2 Blue Grass in April at Keeneland . He returned to his best form with his Sir Barton romp two starts later.

When asked if Ethereal Road seemed like a top stakes performer early on, Lukas responded with a straightforward, “no,” and added the colt has continued to prove himself each step of the way.

“He had to convince us and sell himself to us every day. He was never one that we thought there was brilliance to,” said Lukas. “But he got better and better and more focused, and he’s been an overachiever.”

Lukas said he is cautiously optimistic that Ethereal Road will take to turf as his half-brother Turned Aside did when he won the 2020 Grade 3 Quick Call over the Spa turf.

“He’s got that pedigree. He’s out of a War Front mare – the dam was a turfer and produced a turf horse,” said Lukas. “Pedigree-wise, we have a tendency as trainers to think we can predict turf or dirt, and we can to some degree, but people have opinions and horses have the facts.”

Lukas will be represented in Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Adirondack by Naughty Gal as his other nominee, Summer Promise, will not run and will await another race down the line. Summer Promise was last seen finishing second to Just Cindy in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day at the Spa where she battled for the lead with the subsequent winner and was overtaken at the stretch call.

“Summer Promise is doing well. She’s a good one and she was a little bit short though,” Lukas said. “I underestimated the surface and I think she just came up a little short. She had here [Just Cindy] right where she wanted her and she let her off the hook.”

As for the star of Lukas’ son, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, plans for a next start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 20 at Saratoga are still on track after she exited her runner-up finish to Nest in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 to post a solid five-furlong work over the Oklahoma training track in 1:00.29 on Tuesday.

“Secret Oath’s works have gotten better and better, and I think it’s because she’s getting used to the surface. She’s getting better all the time,” said Lukas. “I was looking at her this morning out there grazing and her coat has turned a deeper red and she’s enjoying it here. She’s had a great two weeks and she came out of [her last race] really well. She’s been a favorite in the barn and done everything right. She’s a perfect child and comes right along. Everything we ask her to do, she does it well.”

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