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In the Land of Lukas, Byrne eyes big score at Breeders’ Cup

November 5, 1997

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ A couple of 2-year-olds who helped trainer Pat Byrne become a racing celebrity in Kentucky and New York have a chance to do the same thing for him Saturday in the Land of Lukas.

The two horses that can help put him in exclusive company on Breeders’ Cup Day at Hollywood Park are unbeaten Favorite Trick, the 7-5 early favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the once beaten Countess Diana, the 9-5 choice in the Juvenile Fillies.

Also accompanying Byrne, a 41-year-old Englishman, to his first Breeders’ Cup is Richter Scale, a 3-year-old colt who is the 3-1 favorite in the 6-furlong Sprint.

Should all three win, Byrne would join California-based D. Wayne Lukas as the only trainers to win three races on a single Breeders’ Cup Day. When Lukas had 11 starters in 1988 at Churchill Downs, he won the 1 1-16-mile Juvenile with Is It True, the 1 1-16-mile Juvenile Fillies with Open Mind and the 6-furlong Sprint with Gulch.

Lukas, who has won a record 13 Breeders’ Cup races with 104 starters, has eight more in five races on Saturday. His best chances for victory appear to rest with Grand Slam in the Juvenile and Fantastic Sharp Cat in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff.

Should Grand Slam win, he could become champion 2-year-old. Should Favorite Trick win, however, he should also get some support for Horse of the Year.

Skip Away and Touch Gold, two other Horse of the Year candidates, will battle in the $4.4 million Breeders Cup Classic. Skip Away, a 4-year-old colt supplemented to the race for $480,000 by owners Carolyn Hine and trainer Sonny Hine, was made a 2-1 choice on Wednesday to beat eight rivals in the 1 1/4-mile test. Touch Gold, a 3-year-old and winner of the Belmont Stakes, was next at 5-2.

The other early favorites are Singspiel, 6-5 in the 1 1/2-mile Turf; the entry of Jewel Princess and Sharp Cat at 8-5; Hidden Lake at 9-5 in 1 1/8-mile Distaff; and Spinning World, 5-2, in the Mile on the grass.

Jewel Princess, the 1996 winner, is trained by Wally Dollase, and Sharp Cat is trained by Lukas. However, they will be coupled in the betting because of common ownership.

``I think he is the 2-year-old champion no matter what happens in the Breeders’ Cup,″ Byrne said of Favorite Trick, who will be seeking his eighth victory. ``He’s done enough already. People don’t like to vote for a 2-year-old as Horse of the Year. A lot would depend on what else happened during the afternoon.″

Favorite Trick won three stakes in May and June at Churchill Downs, Byrne’s home base, and also won the Saratoga Special and Hopeful at Saratoga in August.

The three wins at Churchill Downs were among 14 victories in 17 races that Byrne had during the track’s spring meeting. In the other three races, Byrne’s horses finished second.

One of them was Countess Diana, who followed her only loss in five starts on June 28 with victories at Saratoga in the Schuylerville and Spinaway and in the 1 1-16-mile Alcibiades on Oct. 11 at Keeneland.

Favorite Trick prepped for the Juvenile by winning the 1 1-16-mile Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 18 at Keeneland.

A victory, of course, would make the colt the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. A 2-year-old champion has not won the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979 and no winner of the Juvenile has ever won it.

``We’ve got to get through the first Saturday in November before we worry about the first Saturday in May,″ said Byrne, a resident of Louisville, Ky.

Grand Slam goes into the race, which Lukas has won five times in 13 years, with a record of three wins and a second in four starts and off a victory in the 1 1-16-mile Champagne on Oct. 18 at Belmont Park.

Lukas also will start Double Honor, winner of the 7-furlong Del Mar Futurity, and Time Limit, second in the Breeders’ Futurity. The three colts will not race as an entry because of different ownership.

Another Juvenile contender is Souvenir Copy, winner of the 1-mile Norfolk on Oct. 19 at Santa Anita and trained by Bob Baffert, trainer of Silver Charm, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Baffert also will start Johnbill. The two colts have different owners.

The Juvenile Fillies will also feature Beautiful Pleasure, winner of two of three starts, including the Matron at Belmont Park.

Richter Scale’s, winner of three of four starts this year, goes into the Sprint off a victory in the 1-mile Jerome Handicap on Sept. 20 at Belmont Park.

``I like a horse dropping down in distance,″ Byrne said. ``He has natural speed. He has the speed to get clear early.″

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