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Lucas McCain Aims For The Klein

Published: July 31, 2021 12:28 pm ET

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Harness racing for John Vukelich goes back many decades and over many generations of his family. His family has and still races in Canada and Sweden. And although he took an almost ten-year hiatus to pursue other business endeavors, he has returned to racing and he's currently enjoying success with sophomore pacing colt Lucas McCain, one of the 2021 Ralph Klein Memorial elimination winners.

“I had my own drywall company which did pretty well, but I got a well-bred mare, Last Luck, and with my part-owner, Steve Lilligard, we bred her to Malicious. We ended up getting a little filly, Jeanielicious, and her little brother Lucas McCain.”

Lucas McCain won his Klein elimination in a time of 1:54.1. Although he was the second choice behind runner-up Show Stop, Vukelich was not overly surprised by getting the win. “He was feeling good, and he was training well. He won fairly easily, and we could have gone faster but there was no need to.”

Lucas McCain’s lifetime mark is 1:53.3 which he achieved at Fraser Downs earlier this year in April. After posting two wins in three starts as a two-year-old, Lucas McCain has a 4-0-2 record from nine sophomore starts with earnings in excess of $14,700. The ability of Lucas McCain is clearly evident to his breeder-owner-trainer-driver, who has never experienced such talent in a horse in his career. “Lucas is an amazing, super-fast horse. I’ve never sat behind a horse that is as fast as him.”

Pedigree junkies have surely noticed that Lucas McCain is a P.E.I.-sired colt but was bred by Vukelich in North Saanich, B.C. Vukelich and his partner Steve Lilligard decided to go with the Maritime-based sire as a result of his impressive resume. “Steve (Lilligard) mentioned his name (Malicious) and we looked up some of his races. He was up against Sportswriter and had a tougher go at it, but he ended up breaking track records at a few tracks. So, we decided to go with him.”

Vukelich noted that it was an interesting process breeding to a stallion on the other side of the country, but today’s air travel made it rather easy. “The semen was flown out to us from P.E.I. and I just picked it up at the airport. The vet met me at the farm. I actually got to inject the mare when we got our filly and my wife did it when we got Lucas.”

Lucas McCain is named after the title character in The Rifleman, a television show that ran from 1958 to 1963 and starred Chuck Connors as rancher Lucas McCain.

“The last few years I have been watching The Rifleman,” said Vukelich. “He would always come through to save the day. So, once we had our little colt, I thought it would be a fitting name so he could go out and do his best. He has done well for me so far.”

The 2021 $74,870 Ralph Klein Memorial Final is one of the main events on Sunday’s card of harness racing at Century Downs, co-headlining the stakes packed card along with the $74,380 Gord & Illa Rumpel Memorial Final for three-year-old pacing fillies. Lucas McCain has drawn post two, just to the outside of fellow elim winner Codename Cigar Box (PP1, Kelly Hoerdt, 5-2). The morning line favourite is Shark Week (PP5, Mike Hennessy, 2-1), who cut the mile in his elim and was picked off by Codename Cigar Box. Vukelich is not too concerned about Lucas McCain and his chances this Sunday.

“I’m pretty confident! I should make front pretty easy, and I don’t think he will get challenged.”

Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the future looks bright for Lucas McCain and Vukelich has plans for his colt that could involve heading east. “I’m thinking about taking him out to Toronto and racing him at Woodbine Mohawk Park. It would be nice to get him on the big track with horses with similar speed as him.” Vukelich recognizes that Lucas McCain still has a lot to learn, and a lot of racing career left but he knows he has the right ingredients to make a talented horse.

“He’s young and still learning. He’s a stud too so he gets excited around the girls, but he has a heart. Ever since he was young, he has always wanted to win.”

Vukelich wanted to make sure he thanked the person who helps him the most through all the ups and downs. “Every time I have questions, I call my dad,” said John in reference to his father, Marko Vukelich. “He was a longtime trainer and was the reason I got into the business. Whenever I have an issue, he seems to always have the answer.”

To view the entries for Sunday's card of harness racing at Century Downs, click the following link: Sunday Entries - Century Downs.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Trey Colbeck)

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