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Photo courtesy of Lou Hodges/Fair Grounds

By Claire Novak, @BH_CNovak, Blood-Horse

Optimizer went wire-to-wire in the $125,000 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Jan. 26 for red-hot Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won three stakes races in the last eight days.

Lukas won the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19 and took the $150,000 Smarty Jones (gr. III) with Will Take Charge at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 21. It was his third victory of the afternoon; he also sent out two winners at Oaklawn.

Optimizer, a 4-year-old son of English Channel, initially ran the Triple Crown trail for Lukas and Brad Kelley's Bluegrass Hall. But he improved markedly from his off-the-board finishes in that series when moved to turf immediately after. He won the Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park in 2012 and collected his second graded stakes win in the Col. E.R. Bradley.

Jockey Jon Court was aboard the 2-1 favorite, who broke alertly from post seven and was eased over to the two path. Optimizer clicked off opening fractions of :24.06 and :50.04 while loping along in relaxed fashion with a one-length lead tracked by Strike Impact and Unlatch.

After three-quarters in 1:15.46, Strike Impact made a strong bid for the lead and came within a head of taking it on the outside. But Optimizer held his own and, when set down in upper stretch, proved much the best under strong urging. It was 3 1/2 lengths back to String King, who eased off the rail under a drive and secured the place. Bim Bam closed well from the center of the track to get up for the show. 

Optimizer paid $6, $3.80, and $3 while String King brought $4 and $3.20 and Bim Bam returned $5.80. Unlatch, Trend, Strike Impact, Dubious Miss, Tetradrachm, and James Street completed the order of finish.

Bred in Kentucky by Bluegrass Hall out of the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick, Optimizer improved his career record to 4-2-2 from 20 starts for earnings of $536,942.

For an Equibase chart, click here.

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