04/19/2005 12:00AM

Lukas certain about Going Wild

Sis City, galloping Monday at Keeneland, looms a strong favorite in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - One thing that D. Wayne Lukas seldom lacks is confidence in his horses. That singular trait is serving Lukas well as the Coolmore Lexington Stakes approaches, since Lukas will start Going Wild, who does not exactly enter the race in peak form.

In his last start, Going Wild finished a whopping 41 lengths behind Bellamy Road in the April 9 Wood Memorial. Despite that resounding defeat, and regardless of almost anything that happens Saturday in the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland, Lukas said Tuesday at Churchill Downs that Going Wild definitely will run in the May 7 Kentucky Derby.

"I have absolutely no explanation for that last race," said Lukas. "But I know he's a good horse. I've seen enough of him to know that. I've gone ahead and committed to running back in the Derby because I am very confident he will do his best when he gets to run over the track here at Churchill. He loves this track. Barring some physical problem, regardless of how he does Saturday at Keeneland, we're in Derby Day."

Still, for Going Wild to be assured a spot in the Derby, he will have to earn his way in. Going into the Lexington, his graded earnings are $47,500, which, as it stands, may not be enough to crack the top 20 in case the field overfills.

Going Wild, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, is a speedy colt by Golden Missile. He won three straight races at Santa Anita this winter, including two stakes, then finished second to Declan's Moon in the March 5 Santa Catalina before his Wood debacle.

Since 1981, Lukas has had at least one starter in every Derby except for the 2001 and 2004 runnings. He also plans to run Consolidator for the Lewises in this Derby.

Gary Stevens, who already has committed to Noble Causeway for the Derby, has the mount on Going Wild in the 24th Lexington, a 1 1/16-mile race that will have Rockport Harbor, with Stewart Elliott to ride, as a solid favorite.

The other probables are Storm Surge, Robby Albarado; Sort It Out, Patrick Valenzuela; and Actxecutive, Rafael Bejarano.

Oaks coming into focus

Just as with the Derby, the field for the 131st Kentucky Oaks is beginning to take a firmer shape. And with a little more than two weeks to go until the May 6 Oaks, it appears that Sis City, who on Tuesday was shipped to Churchill after another morning of routine training at Keeneland, will be a solid favorite for the race, followed by Summerly, Runway Model, and In the Gold.

According to Churchill's racing secretary, Doug Bredar, other likely candidates for the Oaks are Aspen Tree, Dance Away Capote, Dixie Talking, Letgomyecho, Memorette, and Sharp Lisa. Several other names also have been mentioned, said Bredar, although they surely would start as longshots.

One notable absentee is Round Pond, who won the Fantasy last Friday at Oaklawn Park. She will skip the Oaks to run in the May 20 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, said trainer John Servis.

Sis City, a 10 1/2-length winner of the April 9 Ashland in her last start, took up residence alongside her new Richard Dutrow Jr. stablemate, Wild Desert, in Barn 41 on the Churchill backstretch Tuesday afternoon.

After Wild Desert's eighth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, owner Daniel M. Borislow transferred him from Ken McPeek to Dutrow's barn. Dutrow, based in New York, is expected at Churchill later in the week.

Lunarpal working toward return

Lunarpal, who last spring became just the second horse to sweep the trio of 2-year-old stakes at Churchill, is nearing a return to action. The colt breezed a half-mile Tuesday at Churchill in 50.80 seconds.

"I'd like to make the Matt Winn with him but probably don't have enough time," said trainer Steve Asmussen. The Matt Winn will be run May 14.

Lunarpal is unraced since being defeated last summer in the Sanford at Saratoga. Asmussen said the spring campaign had taken a "tough toll on him."

A sweep of the three 2-year-old stakes this year will be impossible for any horse. The Three Chimneys Juvenile and Bashford Manor Stakes remain on the Churchill schedule, but the Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes has been eliminated. Favorite Trick was the first to win all three races, during his 1997 Horse of the Year campaign.

Cesare trying Kentucky front

Bill Cesare, the longtime trainer from south Florida, has set up shop at Churchill with four horses, with Second of June the most prominent among them.

Cesare said he left about 10 horses at Calder while trying to establish a foothold in Kentucky. He said Second of June is a possible starter in the May 6 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill but is more likely for the May 20 Pimlico Special.

An opportunity for Battle Won

With the retirements of Clock Stopper and Cajun Beat in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup, trainer Chuck Simon said he will seriously consider the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on the May 7 Derby undercard for Battle Won.

"The ranks look a little thin right now for dirt sprinters," said Simon, who has developed Battle Won into a top turf sprinter. "We'll probably enter in both the Churchill Downs and Aegon Turf Sprint and see what happens."

Battle Won ran a solid fourth behind Soaring Free in his 5-year-old debut Saturday at Keeneland in the Shakertown Stakes on turf.

Career over for Batson Challenge

Batson Challenge was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington after suffering a slab fracture in his right knee in the Arkansas Derby, said trainer Pete Vestal.

Batson Challenge, a two-time winner who finished third in the Rebel Stakes last month, will be retired, said Vestal.

Perfect Drift returning

Besides the Forerunner, at least one other Thursday race at Keeneland drew a notable name.

The sixth race, a $66,000 classified allowance at a mile on turf, will see the 6-year-old debut of Perfect Drift, the venerable gelding who has earned more than $3.1 million for owner-breeder Dr. William Reed. Perfect Drift, trained by Murray Johnson, went winless last year but still earned nearly $1 million facing the likes of Ghostzapper, Roses in May, Pleasantly Perfect, and Saint Liam.