Thursday, May 1, 2003

Derby Notebook


Unusual strategy works for Lukas

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - Two weeks ago, it appeared D. Wayne Lukas wouldn't be here. But this is the Kentucky Derby, for which Lukas practically has his own engraved spots in the starting gate, so it's little surprise he'll start a horse here for the 22nd time in 23 years.

Having saddled more Derby starters than the rest of the trainers in this year's field combined, Lukas has mastered the art of getting his horses here. Recently, he has bucked the convention of running a final prep race three or four weeks prior to the Derby by spring-boarding from the Lexington Stakes, which comes just two weeks before the Run for the Roses.

"You've got to know your horse," he said.

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In 1999, Charismatic won the Lexington and went on to win the Derby and Preakness Stakes. Last year, Proud Citizen won the Lexington and finished second in the Derby.

This year it's Scrimshaw who won that Keeneland prep to earn Lukas a trip to Churchill Downs.

"His record in the Lexington and the Derby, you've got to look at that," Derby oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said of Lukas.

Lukas waited until the Lexington because Scrimshaw was recovering from March 2 throat surgery to correct a breathing problem. In the past, critics contended he was desperate for a Derby horse when he entered the last-chance Lexington, but the results emphatically have said otherwise.

"I've always been (more) partial to that race than even the Blue Grass," Lukas said.

The Blue Grass Stakes, run a week prior to the Lexington, hasn't produced a Derby winner since 1995.

Lukas recently decided also to enter long shot Ten Cents A Shine. These will be his record 40th and 41st Derby starters; the next-closest total is Dick Thompson's 24. Lukas has won the race four times.

JITTERS: Of the 48 trainers who have won the Derby on their first try, just five have accomplished the feat since 1979. Only one has done it since 1990: Neil Drysdale in 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus.

Eight Derby rookies will try to buck history: Patrick Biancone (Brancusi), Bill Currin (Outta Here), Ron Ellis (Atswhatimtalknbout), Paddy Gallagher (Domestic Dispute), Jerry Hollendorfer (Eye Of The Tiger), T.V. Smith (Offlee Wild), Barclay Tagg (Funny Cide) and Mike Tomlinson (Sir Cherokee).

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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