06/05/2013 3:26PM

Belmont Stakes notes: Lukas a road warrior

Barbara D. Livingston
Oxbow, winner of the Preakness, will start for D. Wayne Lukas in the Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - He was the original jet-setter in racing. “Wayne off the plane” was the cry when trainer D. Wayne Lukas would fly his horses across the country to knock off Grade 1 stakes. Now, he’s grounded, Lukas preferring to hit the road with, as he puts it, “my friends George and Willie.”

That would be George Strait and Willie Nelson, whom Lukas listens to, among others, when he’s on the road again. Lukas is based at Churchill Downs this time of year, and for both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, he sent his horses by van, and accompanied them, rather than fly.

He’s a road warrior, sometimes to extreme. Earlier this year, Lukas drove through the night from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., to Fair Grounds in New Orleans to run Oxbow in the Lecomte, then got right back in his car after the race and drove back to Oaklawn so he could train the next morning.

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“I drove 10 1/2 hours, ran the horse, watched him cool out, and drove 10 1/2 hours back,” Lukas said when prompted about his travel tales the other morning at Belmont Park. “I don’t have a problem with that at all. After a race your adrenaline is going. And I’ve never needed much sleep.

“I like to listen to Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius,” he said. “I’ll listen to George Strait, Toby Keith, Emmylou Harris. I know all the lyrics. I’ll sing along. George Strait and Willie Nelson, we’ve traveled a lot of miles in my years.”

A pair of $1 million-guaranteed pools

The pick six on Saturday, consisting of all stakes, will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million and be held on races 6 through 11, ending with the Belmont Stakes.

There will be a trio of pick four wagers available with a $1 million-guaranteed pool on races 8 through 11, also ending with the Belmont. There will be an early pick four on races 2 through 5 and a late pick four on races 10 through 13, neither of which will have guaranteed pools.

Security reminder: No umbrellas
Though rain is in the forecast at least for part of Saturday, patrons attending Saturday’s Belmont Stakes are reminded that umbrellas are among items prohibited from being brought onto the grounds for security reasons.
Other items that have been permitted in past years but prohibited this year are backpacks, coolers, camcorders, duffle bags, and purses larger than 12 inches in diameter.

MacAdam, Novak win Hirsch awards
Mike MacAdam, of the Daily Gazette of Schenectady (N.Y.), and Claire Novak, writing for ESPN.com, have been honored by the New York Racing Association with the Joe Hirsch Memorial Writing award, acknowledging the best stories written about the 2012 Belmont Stakes.

MacAdam won in the follow/wrap-up division for his story titled “Union Rags finds riches on the rail,” recounting John Velazquez’s victorious ride on Union Rags, coming just two months before his induction in the Hall of Fame.

Novak won the top honors in the feature/advance division for her story “Unforgettable Day at Belmont Park,” chronicling the events of June 8, when Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont because of injury.

– additional reporting by David Grening