Guntis Lukss dreaming of fairy-tale Highway win

After wins at Canberra and Queanbeyan, Guntis Lukss believes Incantata can feature in Saturday’s Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick. Image – Bradley Photos.

She might be a $1000 purchase that opened a 200/1 chance, but Guntis Lukss believes Incantata can run a big race in Saturday’s $120,000 Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick. 

The Queanbeyan-trained five-year-old will contest the 1600m Class Three Handicap, and Grant Buckley will be aboard while connections have drawn nicely with gate four. 

“She’s fit, she draws well, and she’s got a good jockey on her,” Lukss told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“Her work has been great, but like anything in racing, you need luck at times, but she only needs luck to feature. 

“We’ve had her for a little while, and we’re starting to work out what she likes and how she likes to race.”

A two-time winner, the Per Incanto mare ‘is eating the same grass and drinking the same water as Takeover Target’ on Furlong Road in Queanbeyan, where Joe Janiak trained his famous sprinter. 

Incantata, while not racing at the same lofty heights as the late champion, did race with three different trainers before arriving in Lukss’ yard as a four-start maiden. 

After being sold for $600, Lukss offered $1000 for Incantata, and the rest is history, with the mare since winning $40,000 for connections following a Country Boosted Maiden Handicap (1200m) win at Canberra in February and an impressive Class One (1600m) victory at Queanbeyan in November. 

“We only train cast-offs, and well, Maree Hopkins rang me one day, and she gets a lot of second hands and cast-offs too, and she had this horse, which had come into her stable from another trainer,” Lukss said. 

“She said this horse would suit me, and that’s how it happened. She was a $600 purchase online before that, and I offered Maree $1000 because she was fit and ready to go and $1000 sounds a lot better than $900, and I didn’t want her to knock it back. 

“We’ve been lucky to win a couple with her, and I’ve got a bit of an opinion of her.

“We like horses, and we know what we’ve got, and if we can win at Tumut or Tumbarumba or wherever, that’s fantastic, but if we were to win at Royal Randwick with her, that would mean everything.”

Since winning at Queanbeyan, Incantata has mixed her form, and Lukss put it down to a mixture of wet tracks and mistakes on his behalf. 

“You can probably discount a few runs, as she doesn’t like the heavy, and I’ve made a couple of mistakes,” he said. 

“I backed her up when I shouldn’t have, and we only raced her at Canberra three starts back as we thought Queanbeyan was going to get called off, but it didn’t, and we raced her again.

“There have been a couple of muck ups, but she returned over a mile at Queanbeyan last start, and she wasn’t comfy in the wet but wasn’t beaten far. 

“On a good track and from the good draw, she is a live chance.”

The Queanbeyan trainer explained how it came about that Buckley would be riding his mare. 

“It’s a bit of a fluke getting him on,” Lukss laughed.

“My trackwork rider, Chris Coleman, said, let’s see if we can get Bucko on board. 

“I already knew I was going to get a run, and I was chasing a rider, and Chris told me he is a great, strong whip rider, and it couldn’t have worked out any better.”

For Lukss, a Cooma product who’s previously tasted metropolitan success at Rosehill Gardens, a trip to Royal Randwick is a dream come true. 

“I’ve always been a small-time trainer, and one of my claims to fame is that Wayne Harris rode my horse to his last win at Rosehill,” Lukss said. 

“It was his last winning ride, which was a thrill, so if we can go to Randwick and run a place or even win it, I’ll be stoked. 

“I just want to see a good, clean run race where she gets a chance, and at the end of the day, they’re all fit and well, and she is certainly up to it in her own grade, but she’ll just need some luck.”

Incantata will be one of four Queanbeyan horses racing in the TAB Highway, with Final Comment (Nick Olive), Chairman’s List (Rex Cole), and Lepo (Mike Petrovic) all making the trip. 

For Thunderbet’s Highway markets, click here