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D. Wayne Lukas 5, everybody else 1
BALTIMORE - Of the eight trainers in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico, D. Wayne Lukas has won the race five times, and rest - combined - have won it once.
Though he is in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career that redefined the ambition and scope of training horses in this country, Lukas, 71, remains feisty and eager for the challenge.
"I didn't come here for the crab cakes," he said outside the Pimlico stakes barn.
Lukas is hoping Flying First Class, who won the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in his last start, can make it a Preakness six-pack.
"I like that he has had three weeks off," Lukas said. "Time is your ally if you're a horse trainer."
Lukas trains far fewer horses than he once did, and some of his major supporters, such as Bob Lewis, have died in recent years. Though he once had stables at several tracks simultaneously, Lukas has left California and New York, and now stays at Churchill Downs most of the year, except for the winter, when he heads to Oaklawn Park.
"There's legitimate concerns about racing in California," Lukas said. "We try to be ahead of the curve. I was tired of fighting the traffic. I moved to a place where the horse is revered, where horsemen are considered a step ahead of a child molester."
Despite scaling back, Lukas remains ever dangerous, especially in the Preakness. Of his five Preakness winners, only one, Charismatic, also won the Kentucky Derby, and he still was dismissed at 8-1 in the Preakness. Lukas's first Preakness victory, back in 1980 with Codex, marked his debut on the Triple Crown stage. Since then, he has won the Preakness with Tank's Prospect in 1985, Tabasco Cat in 1994, and Timber Country, his lone favorite among the Preakness quintet, in 1995.
Flying First Class was well beaten by Preakness rival Curlin in both the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, but he came back to score a runaway victory in the Derby Trial.
"That validated that he's a very good horse," Lukas said. "He has a natural cruising speed."
One thing has not changed about Lukas. He enjoys sparring with the media.
"Whether my horse can get a mile and three-sixteenths," he said, referring to the Preakness distance, "you guys, the geniuses and experts, will probably have it all figured out before the gate opens."
All jockeys seeking first Preakness win
None of the nine riders competing in this year's Preakness has won the race, making this the first such occurrence since 1979 when Spectacular Bid, under Ron Franklin, beat four rivals in the race.
Spectacular Bid was the last 2-year-old champion to win the Kentucky Derby until Street Sense did it two weeks ago.
Street Sense's jockey, Calvin Borel, like Ron Franklin back then, will be riding in his first Preakness on Saturday. In fact, Borel has never ridden at Pimlico before, and was scheduled to have his first mounts here Friday. Other jockeys competing in the Preakness for the first time are Alan Garcia (Mint Slewlep), Mark Guidry (Flying First Class), and John Velazquez (Circular Quay).
The other five riders are a combined 0 for 24 in the Preakness. Edgar Prado (C P West) is 0 for 9; Robby Albarado (Curlin), 0 for 6; Ramon Dominguez (Xchanger), 0 for 5; Mario Pino (Hard Spun), 0 for 2; and Garrett Gomez (King of the Roxy), 0 for 2. Albarado and Dominguez have finished second in the race.
There are only seven active riders who have won the Preakness: Javier Castellano, Kent Desormeaux, Stewart Elliott, Victor Espinoza, Jeremy Rose, Jose Santos, and Alex Solis.
Zito equals Sunny Jim
C P West will be the 18th Preakness starter saddled by Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, equaling Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons for third-most on the all-time list. Only Lukas, who will saddle his 32nd Preakness starter Saturday, and Max Hirsch (19) have saddled more horses in this race.
Zito won the Preakness in 1996 with Louis Quatorze. He finished second in 1994 with Derby winner Go for Gin and second in 2001 with A P Valentine. Zito finished third with Hemingway's Key last year.
Bailes will take a repeat, well, half a repeat
When Scrappy T swerved into the path of Afleet Alex in the 2005 Preakness, nearly causing disaster, Scrappy T's trainer Robbie Bailes was repeatedly asked afterward, "What was that all about?"
Bailes had no good answers, other than it was the innocent kind of dust-up that simply happens once in a while in the sport of horse racing. Fortunately, no horses or jockeys were seriously injured in the incident, and Afleet Alex went on to a dominating triumph as the 3-1 favorite, with Scrappy T second at 13-1.
Two years later, Bailes is back in the Preakness, for a second time, with Mint Slewlep, who figures as the longest shot in the field of nine. Bailes, based at the Bowie training center, laughed when asked whether he was going to be at the center of controversy again this year.
"Well, I'd take the same result," he said, referring to a second-place finish, "without any of that other stuff."
Multi-race exotics at 14 percent takeout
Pimlico is offering two pick four wagers with large guaranteed pools Saturday. The first one will be conducted on races 4-7 and will carry a $250,000 guarantee; the second is on races 9-12 with a $1 million guarantee. The Preakness is the 12th race. Wagering takeout on all pick fours and pick threes is 14 percent.
The pick six, which does not have a guaranteed pool, begins on race 7 and ends with the Preakness. The minimum denomination is 50 cents.
o Jockey Edgar Prado and Dr. Dean Richardson were honored Thursday morning with the Special Award of Merit at the annual Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico for their work with Barbaro. Other honorees were Sean Clancy, the David Woods Award; Jerry Izenberg and Don Clippinger, the Old Hilltop Award; and the Maryland Jockey Club for the Nikon Photo Award.
* Among the visitors to Pimlico this week was the former first lady of televised racing, Charlsie Cantey, whose son, J.B. Cantey IV, is in his first year of residency at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Cantey was named Honorary Postmaster at the Alibi Breakfast.
* Nationally acclaimed artist Susan Sommer-Luarca has several charity projects in the works this weekend. Her portrait of Barbaro winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby will be auctioned on eBay, with proceeds going to the Barbaro Memorial Fund. She also will be working on two paintings during Preakness weekend - one of Street Sense and Calvin Borel, and another that will be used next year as the official artwork for the Preakness.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee