08/08/2002 11:00PM

Another Lukas protege takes flight


D. Wayne Lukas has a long list of former employees who have gone on to successful careers as trainers. Now Becky Maker is bidding to join that group.

Maker won the first race of her career when Atticus Finch captured the last race Wednesday at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. It was the 18th starter for Maker, who worked for Lukas for four years and for Dallas Stewart, a former Lukas assistant, for another four years.

"That was a long time coming," Maker said Friday from the Trackside training facility in Louisville, where she has 11 horses.

Maker said her ambition is to become like other former Lukas employees such as Stewart, Todd Pletcher, and Mark Hennig, all of whom have thrived on their own.

"When you come up under Wayne's program, you learn how much details make a difference," said the 29-year-old Michigan native who came up under the late George Maker, the father of her ex-husband and Lukas assistant Mike Maker. "Your work ethic is really good, you're able to evaluate everything properly, and you learn great communication skills. Those years with Wayne are definitely ones that I value."

Atticus Finch, owned by Dogwood Stable, won a one-mile maiden-special turf race. Dogwood is one of about six clients that have given horses to Maker, with others being Ted Taylor, John Gunther, and Darrell Brown.

Maker said she hopes her horses are good enough to take to Fair Grounds this winter. Otherwise, she plans to make Kentucky her year-round base.

Owner Kutz fined $25,000

Horse owner and renowned Louisville hand surgeon Dr. Joseph Kutz, who admitted to spiking one of his horse's feed supplements with the anti-depression medication Prozac in February, agreed to a $25,000 fine and a second 30-day suspension at a Thursday hearing of the Kentucky Racing Commission in Lexington.

The size of the fine is a Kentucky record. Trainer Bill Deaton, who said he was unaware that the subject horse, a $7,500 claimer named Explodo Red, had been given the illegal medication, previously was suspended 150 days because of the absolute insurer rule.

Kutz, 74, told a commission hearing officer that "what I did was wrong. I put a small trainer at jeopardy. It was not my intention. This is the first time we've ever done this and the last time."

Prather targets end of meet

Kris Prather, who suffered a fractured pelvis in a freak accident at Churchill in late June, has been delayed in her comeback to riding but is expected back before the Ellis meet ends Sept. 2.

Prather began her career at Ellis over two years ago but still has several months remaining on her apprenticeship after having been injured on several occasions. "We're looking to roll at Turfway," which begins Sept. 4, said agent Ron Mullis.

* Jim McKnight, who two decades ago was a major factor in the Kentucky jockey colony, has returned from Canada, where he has been a regular rider for years at Woodbine. McKnight, 50, said his return was due partly to his family living year-round in Kentucky.