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Lukas: Lone Star ‘On Right Track’

October 18, 1996

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) _ D. Wayne Lukas, the winningest trainer in thoroughbred racing, has promised to support one of Texas’ three tracks with solid horses and world-class riders.

The four-time Eclipse Award-winner toured the $110 million Lone Star Park on Thursday with state officials, against the backdrop of rising girders for a seven-story grandstand.

``We’ll bring horses in here to run and we’ll bring world-class riders _ the Gary Stevenses and Jerry Baileys and so forth, rest assured, I promise you, will be here to ride those horses and give you a chance firsthand and up close to be around those guys,″ Lukas said.

Stevens has ridden the Lukas-trained Serena’s Song, the 1995 champion 3-year-old filly. Bailey has been the jockey for Sharp Cat, also trained by Lukas, who won a record six consecutive Triple Crown races.

The premier thoroughbred season schedule at Lone Star, scheduled to open in April, will provide an opportunity for Lukas to bring in a stable for regular racing. He said Lone Star is ``on the right track″ to become one of the nation’s top parks.

``We have a void at that time and we are looking for a spot,″ he said. ``And this is a likely spot with the dates that you are projecting and so forth. And so we’ll start with the stakes schedule and we’ll bring some nice horses in here and then we’ll go from there.″

Lukas made the comments before touring paddocks and turf course construction at the track and meeting off-track wagerers at the Class 1 track’s posh simulcast pavilion, which opened in May.

``We are going to support Lone Star _ let me just say that without reservation,″ said Lukas, 61, of Arcadia, Calif. ``We will come in here and we will race. Our M.O. is to come in and hit the stakes schedule first and get a feel for what is happening here and how it’s going to go.″

In the early 1960s, Lukas was active in Del Rio, Goliad, Columbus and elsewhere when the state was a top location for raising quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

``Those were some of the best times of my life,″ said Lukas, who received a commemorative crystal gift for his first visit to Lone Star.

Lukas now says the timing is right for Texas, which banned betting on horses in 1937 and legalized it again 50 years later.

He said major sales in Kentucky and worldwide this year are higher, some as much as 45 percent.

``I am looking forward to a Breeders’ Cup that’s coming up,″ he said. ``I think you are going to have this place packed to the roof.″

Lukas, with about $100 million in career earnings, will run a three-horse entry in a 12-horse field in seven races at the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 26.

``There’s a lot of beautiful racetracks all over the world, but if they’re not run properly and if they don’t have the attention to detail and customer service, a lot of times they’re empty,″ Corey S. Johnsen, Lone Star vice president and general manager, told Lukas.

The trainer and others said Texas horse racing suffered in the 1980s from unbridled growth and lack of wagering enthusiasm. Trinity Meadows Raceway, the first North Texas horse-racing track to again offer legal pari-mutuel wagering, shut down in August. Two other tracks filed for bankruptcy protection.

But Lone Star, on Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth, will prosper from its goal of unparalleled service in horse racing, Johnsen said.

``We’re going to have a turf course and a main track constructed by one of the best racetrack designers in the world, a fine stable area that will have all the comforts for the horses and the people working around the horses,″ he said.

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