Lukas Has a Head For Triple Crown Races
BALTIMORE (AP) _ D. Wayne Lukas, nattily dressed at a speaker’s podium or on a stable pony, is in Baltimore looking for a new hat.
The trainer and motivational speaker showed up in the Pimlico stable area Thursday wearing a baseball cap, which had on its front the figure 6 beneath six stars and above the words Triple Crown.
When someone commented about the cap, Lukas replied, ``I hope to make this obsolete right around 5:30 Saturday.″
That’s when Lukas will try to win his third consecutive Preakness and stretch to seven his incredible string of victories in Triple Crown races.
With Grindstone, who put the sixth star on Lukas’ cap in the Kentucky Derby on May 4, retired because of a bone chip in his right knee, Lukas will try to win the $500,000-added Preakness with three other Derby starters _ Prince of Thieves, third; Editor’s Note, sixth, and Victory Speech, 10th.
Other Derby starters in the field of 12 3-year-olds are Cavonnier, second by a nose; Skip Away, 12th; In Contention, 14th, and Louis Quatorze, 16th.
Joining the Triple Crown competition will be Allied Forces, Feather Box, Mixed Count, Secreto de Estado and Tour’s Big Red.
``They’re good solid horses,″ said Lukas after the trio arrived at the Pimlico barns after a flight from Louisville, Ky. ``Whether they’re good enough to win is another matter. We know it can’t go on and on, but we feel if we get by this one we can carry it a little farther. This is a major hurdle.″
In other words, the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 8 could be easier for Team Lukas than the 1 3-16-mile Preakness.
Prince of Thieves, owned by Peter Mitchell, appears to be Lukas’ best bet Saturday.
``Second, third and fourth-place finishers in the Derby have done well here,″ Lukas said.
Derby runner-ups Summer Squall (1990) and Prairie Bayou (1993) won the Preakness. So did Derby third-place finishers Risen Star (1989) and Timber Country (1995). Pine Bluff won the 1992 Preakness after finishing fifth in the Derby.
Timber Country’s Lukas-trained stablemate Thunder Gulch finished third in the Preakness last year after having won the Derby, then went on to win the Belmont.
Prince of Thieves was the early 5-2 second choice in the field of 12 3-year-olds behind 9-5 Cavonnier, the Santa Anita Derby winner.
Lukas thinks Prince of Thieves might go off the favorite.
``Prince of Thieves will get a lot of support, Bailey will draw some support and we’ll draw some support,″ Lukas said.
Cavonnier, however, will be ridden by Chris McCarron, who began his career in Maryland in 1974 and is a favorite among horse players in the state.
Only two of Lukas’ winners during his six-race streak were favored _ Timber Country ($5.80) in the Preakness and Thunder Gulch ($5) in the Belmont last year. Tabasco Cat paid $9.20 in winning the Preakness and $8.80 in winning the Belmont in 1994. Thunder Gulch returned $51 for his Derby victory, and Grindstone paid $13.80 for his.
``Grindstone may be the best training job I’ve ever done,″ Lukas said. ``We took a horse who had surgery and less than a perfect knee and nursed him to the Triple Crown and won the ultimate race.″
Grindstone was ridden by Jerry Bailey in the Derby, and, with the colt’s retirement, Lukas decided to replace Day with Bailey on Prince of Thieves. Day will ride Louis Quatorze for trainer Nick Zito.
``It was a coaching decision,″ said Lukas, a former high school and college basketball coach. ``I had access to two great quarterbacks, and I thought one was playing a little better than the other was. It had nothing to do with the way Pat rode in the Derby. At this point, it’s hard to argue that Bailey isn’t the No. 1 jockey in the country.″
Bailey is the rider of Cigar, the 1995 Horse of the Year and winner of 14 straight races.
Prince of Thieves, a half brother to Timber Country, won his only start last year. This year, he won the Santa Catalina on Feb. 4 at Santa Anita for his only victory in six starts. He bled while finishing sixth in the Santa Anita Derby, then ran a good second in the Lexington at Keeneland 13 days before the Kentucky Derby.
Gary Stevens again will ride Editor’s Note, loser of eight straight races, five of them this year, but second three times and third twice in graded stakes. The colt is owned by William T. Young, owner-breeder of Grindstone and co-owner of Tabasco Cat.
Rene Douglas replaces Alex Solis on Victory Speech, owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier. Tabor owned Thunder Gulch and also Honour and Glory, 18th in this year’s Derby.
Prince of Thieves, Editor’s Note and Victory Speech will not be coupled in the betting because of separate ownership.