Sunday, April 20, 2003

Scrimshaw's victory sends Lukas to Derby

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Using the Lexington Stakes as a springboard for the Kentucky Derby continues to be a successful formula for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Lukas' Scrimshaw took the lead in the final furlong and beat Eye of the Tiger by three lengths in the Grade II Lexington at Keeneland on Saturday, giving Lukas a last-minute entry into the Kentucky Derby.

For the second year in a row, Lukas appeared out of Derby contenders. But just like Proud Citizen last year, Scrimshaw came through with a victory that will allow Lukas to try and win the Derby on May 3 for the fifth time.

"We now have to put it all together in a couple of weeks, and it is a challenge," Lukas said. "All these horses have talent, but at this point it comes down to the mental aspect of it. I like this challenge."

This will be the 22nd time in 23 years that Lukas will have a Derby starter.

"This race sets up well for us," Lukas said. "I have never thought you had to look good in February. This race fits our program. I knew I was behind the 8-ball with this horse. But he has a lot of talent. I always thought he was our best horse."

It was the third win in the Lexington, the last major Derby prep race, for a Lukas-trained horse since 1999. Charismatic won in 1999 and went on to win the Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Last year, Proud Citizen won the Lexington, then finished second in the Derby to War Emblem.

Scrimshaw will be Lukas' 40th horse in the Derby, more than any other trainer.

"I am the old man of Derby trainers now and I hope I am bringing him around," Lukas said. "It will be an exciting two weeks."

At 6-1, Scrimshaw went off as the fourth choice in the seven-horse field for the $325,000-added Lexington Stakes. The son of Gulch easily held off Eye of the Tiger and Domestic Dispute.

"Nothing is over until its over," said jockey Edgar Prado, who rode Scrimshaw. "That's why they call it horse racing. Everything worked out beautifully."

Scrimshaw hadn't raced since finishing fourth in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 15. Scrimshaw had minor throat surgery after that race and missed 21 days of training as a result.

"I think Edgar rode him well," Lukas said. "He had to sit and wait and he showed great patience throughout the race. I thought this was a very tough race."

Scrimshaw covered a half-mile in 46.6 seconds on Wednesday during a workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, an effort Lukas then called "impressive" and "encouraging."

It turned out to be a preview of things to come.

Ministers Wild Cat bumped Scrimshaw near the approach of the first turn. Scrimshaw stayed behind pace-setting Trust N Luck and Ministers Wild Cat until the top of the stretch, when he moved three wide and took over.

Scrimshaw paid $14.60 to win, $6.20 and $3.40 and earned owners Robert and Beverly Lewis $225,479. Eye of the Tiger paid $8.80 and $5. Domestic Dispute paid $3.40.

As Lukas and Scrimshaw steamed toward the Derby, other hopefuls fell by the wayside. Trainer Bob Baffert, who already plans to saddle Kafwain and Indian Express in the Derby, had thought another of his horses, Domestic Dispute, might join them with a win in the Lexington.

"Bob told me that (Domestic Dispute) needs to be outside, but you can't give up that much ground on this track," jockey Jerry Bailey said.

Ministers Wild Cat likely also is out of the Derby picture. Jockey Victor Espinoza said the son of Deputy Minister "didn't really get a hold of the track." Trainer Neal Drysdale said he didn't know what his next step would be with the horse.

Champali was a late scratch. The Louisville-based horse might instead run in next week's Grade III Derby Trial at Churchill.

Kentucky Derby trail

Key prep races and winners:

1/18: Holy Bull, Offlee Wild

1/25: Lecomte, Saintly Look

2/1: San Vicente, Kafwain

2/15: F. of Youth, Trust N Luck

3/1: San Rafael, Rojo Toro

3/1: Battaglia, Champali

3/8: El Camino, Ocean Terrace

3/9: La. Derby, Peace Rules

3/15: Fla. Derby, Empire Maker

3/16: San Felipe, Buddy Gil

3/22: Lane's End, New York Hero

3/22: Rebel, Crowned King

4/5: Ill. Derby, Ten Most Wanted

4/5: Santa Anita, Buddy Gil

4/5: Aventura, Dynever

4/12: Wood, Empire Maker

4/12: Blue Grass, Peace Rules

4/12: Ark. Derby, Sir Cherokee

4/19: Lexington, Scrimshaw

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