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Rivals Lukas, Zito Will Start Two Horses in Belmont

June 6, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ While trainer D. Wayne Lukas is looking for a third straight victory in the Belmont Stakes, Nick Zito is hoping to avoid a third consecutive second-place finish.

The arch-rivals in Triple Crown racing in the 1990s will saddle two colts each for the final race of the Triple Crown, which on Thursday drew 16 3-year-olds. That equals a record for the most starters in a Belmont _ set when Caveat won in 1983.

Lukas, whose string of six wins in Triple Crown races was snapped in the Preakness, will saddle Editor’s Note and Prince of Thieves in a bid to become the fourth trainer to win at least three straight Belmonts.

``I don’t think Woody is nervous,″ Lukas said, referring to trainer Woody Stephens’ five consecutive Belmont wins in 1982-86.

Lukas won the 1994 Belmont when Tabasco Cat beat Zito’s Derby winner Go For Gin. Last year, Lukas’ Derby winner, Thunder Gulch, beat Zito’s Star Standard.

``I just want to get it over with,″ Zito said of the second-place rut into which he has fallen in the Belmont. He will start Preakness winner Louis Quatorze and Saratoga Dandy.

Not only did Zito finish second to Lukas in the last two Belmonts. He also saw his Thirty Six Red finish second in 1990, and Derby winner Strike the Gold lose by a nose to Hansel in 1991.

Louis Quatorze, 16th in the Derby; Editor’s Note, sixth in the Derby and third in the Preakness; and Prince of Thieves, third in the Derby and seventh in the Preakness, are three of six Belmont starters to have run in the first two Triple Crown races. The others are Cavonnier, second and fourth; Skip Away, 12th and second, and In Contention, 15th and sixth. Secreto de Estado finished ninth in the Preakness.

``I think the winner will come out of the Derby and Preakness field, with the exception of My Flag,″ Lukas said.

My Flag will be only the 20th filly _ and first since Derby winner Winning Colors finished sixth in 1988 _ to start in the Belmont. The only two to win were Ruthless in 1867, and Tanya in 1905.

My Flag, a double Grade I stakes winner and the daughter of Easy Goer, the 1989 Belmont winner, will carry 121 pounds, five fewer than each of her 14 rivals. She was made the early co-second choice at 6-1 with Skip Away.

Favored at 3-1 to win the 1 1/2-mile test was Cavonnier, who would join Creme Fraiche (1985) as the only geldings to win the Belmont. At 9-2 was the entry of Louis Quatroze and Saratoga Dandy, who won the Sir Barton at Pimlico on the day his entry mate won the Preakness.

At 8-1 were Prince of Thieves and Editor’s Note _ a loser of nine straight stakes, but second and third three times each in that span.

Gary Stevens, Editor’s Note’s regular rider, told Lukas on Wednesday night that a rotator cuff problem in a shoulder, would keep him from riding. He was replaced by Rene Douglas.

The Lukas pair will not be coupled in the betting because of different owners. Zito will have an entry because William Condren and Joseph Cornaccia own Saratoga Dandy and share ownership of Louis Quatorze with Georgia Hoffman. She bred the colt.

Prince of Thieves drew the No. 6 post, with Editor’s Note just outside him. Zito wanted Nos. 4, 5 or 6, but got No. 12 for the front-running Louis Quatorze _ who went wire-to-wire in the Preakness from the No. 6 gate.

Skip Away, who also likes to run on or near the lead, drew No. 13 after having drawn No. 16 in the 1 1/4-mile Derby and No. 11 in the 1 3-16-mile Preakness.

Cavonnier, who stalks the pace, drew No. 14.

Weather could be a factor, with showers and thunderstorms forecast throughout the weekend.

``The track plays very funny when it’s wet,″ Lukas said.

Joining Saratoga Dandy and My Lag in making their debuts in Triple Crown competition will be Jamies First Punch, South Salem, Appealing Skier, Natural Selection, Traffic Circle and Rocket Flash.

Jamies First Punch won the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan on May 26 at Belmont Park. There have been three horses _ Coastal in 1979, Danzig Connection in 1986, and A.P. Indy in 1992 _ to accomplish a Peter Pan-Belmont double.

Julie Krone will ride South Salem, making his debut in the United States and on the dirt. Krone became the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, with Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont. The colt, bred in Kentucky and owned by American Virginia Kraft Payson, won two of three starts last year and had a second in two starts this year in England.

The field in post-position order is Saratoga Dandy, Natural Selection, South Salem, Rocket Flash, Jamies First Punch, Prince of Thieves, Editor’s Note, Appealing Skier, My Flag, Traffic Circle, In Contention, Louis Quatorze, Skip Away, Cavonnier and Secreto de Estado.

Rocket Flash, Traffic Circle and Secreto de Estado will be coupled as the mutuel field for betting purposes.

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