By Noah Joseph
In the history of horse racing in America, very few people garnered more fame and respect than
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. Throughout the 1980s, these two were on the top of the charts in wins and money earned for trainer and jockey. Together during that decade, they won a combined total of 22 Breeders’ Cup races and 7 Triple Crown races, and often teamed up together in major races. One of those times they teamed up was in 1988 at Canterbury Downs.
Wayne and Lafitt joined forces in the 1988 Indian Summer Festival of Racing at Canterbury Downs. The Indian Summer Festival of Racing was one of the last major events of the racing season in Minnesota. It featured races for some of the best two-year-olds in the country, and races for older horses. The three major races in the festival were the Canterbury Debutante for two-year-old fillies on the first day of the festival, while the second day featured the Canterbury Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap for older horses, and the Canterbury Juvenile for 2-year-old colts. Laffit and Wayne planned to take down all three races, and they would start on Saturday September 24 in the Debutante with Lea Lucinda. Owned by the legendary Calumet Farm, Lea Lucinda was coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Del Mar Debutante at Del Mar in California as well as placings in three other graded stakes on the East and West coasts.
But to win at Canterbury, she would have to defeat the likes of Victory’s Goldie, a local challenger whose only loss came in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga in New York. Another foe was Formidable Lady, who was fourth behind Lea Lucinda in the Del Mar Debutante. The local favorites were Syrian Dish and Coolawin, both trained by Carl Nafzger. Breaking from post position 6, Lea Lucinda was close up early and then dropped back to stalk the leaders before making a move on the far turn and joined the leading Formidable Lady, who was ridden by Pat Valenzuela. The two fillies raced side by side. Formidable Lady took the lead and looked like she might draw away to win, but Pincay asked Lea Lucinda for more, and with a confident but urging drive, Lea Lucinda took the lead and drew away to win by nearly a length over Formidable Lady, with longshot Northern Wife behind in third. This win was sweet revenge for Lukas, who had sent Lost Kitty to compete in the Debutante the year before, only to lose in a drubbing to Turbo Launch. Lea Lucinda went on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that year at Churchill Downs.
With one victory under their belts, Wayne and Laffit then set their sights on the following Sunday. They had very strong chances to win the two biggest races of the day, the Canterbury Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap and the Canterbury Juvenile. In the Budweiser, Lukas and Laffit teamed up with Slew City Slew. A son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Slew City Slew had won the Salvator Mile Handicap at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and was fourth in the Grade 1 Philip H. Iselin Handicap there as well. To win here, he had to defeat Claramount, winner of the Grade 2 Boojum Handicap at Belmont Park. Other foes included Honor Medal, winner of the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, and the classy Carload. Slew City Slew broke sharply from post 2 and used his speed to take the lead. He then let Claramount and Carload come close to him as well a local charge in The Flats. Slew City Slew then got away from his rivals turning for home and went on to win over Honor Medal and Claramount. Slew City Slew later that year competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The following year, he won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap and the Oaklawn Handicap. This race also has local fun fact, as Slew City Slew was picked up from MSP airport and driven to Canterbury by current Canterbury Park trainer Troy Bethke.
Now it was time for Texian to compete in the Canterbury Juvenile, a race that D. Wayne Lukas
won the year before with Success Express, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A son of Majestic Light, Texian had recently finished third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. To win, he’d have to take on the likes of Minor Flaw, a graded stakes winner at Ak-sar-ben in Nebraska. The race was also filled with local favorites such as The Count, Jijada, Jackie Jack, and Tinys Madd. Texian broke sharply from post 7 and laid off the pace being set by Minor Flaw, and then with less than a half mile to go, Texian made his move under Pincay and ran next to Minor Flaw. They dueled to the quarter pole, and then Texian drew off and won easily, with Jackie Jack flying on for second and Minor Flaw finishing third. Unlike Success Express, Texian did not partake in the Breeders’ Cup. However, he did compete on the trail for the 1989 Kentucky Derby and won the Grade 3 Best Turn Stakes at Aqueduct that year.
All in all, the trip into Minnesota was well worth it for Wayne and Laffit, as they swept all three major stakes during the Indian Summer Festival of Racing of 1988. Truly a case of an excellent adventure.