08/30/2006 11:00PM

Lukas feels Pegasus Wind is ready this time


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas turns 71 on Saturday, but he hopes really to celebrate come dusk on Monday when he sends out Pegasus Wind in the Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes for juvenile colts.

Lukas, who has won five runnings of the Hopeful, has been high on Pegasus Wind, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, from the beginning. He was high enough to run him in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs as a first-time starter. Pegasus Wind finished fifth in that race, 3 1/2 lengths behind Circular Quay.

"I thought he was the best horse," Lukas said of Pegasus Wind. "I've been around some pretty nice horses and I just thought he was good enough to beat those horses. I still believe it."

Lukas said he didn't have Pegasus Wind fit enough to compete against more seasoned horses in the Bashford Manor.

"He's kind of a gifted horse and does things so easy that I didn't have him tight enough," Lukas said. "I thought I did, but those horses that get over the ground like he does and do things so easy don't get as much out of their training. I underestimated it, didn't do a very good job at all with him, and left him short. But I got it corrected up here."

In his next start, Pegasus Wind won a maiden race here on July 29 by seven lengths, giving Lukas full confidence to try him again in a stakes race.

With Rafael Bejarano sidelined the rest of the meet with a broken rib, Lukas has tabbed Cornelio Velasquez to ride Pegasus Wind in the Hopeful.

Trainer Todd Pletcher worked both of his Hopeful contenders on Thursday. Scat Daddy, the Sanford winner, went four furlongs in 49.84 seconds by himself under Angel Cordero Jr. Circular Quay, went five furlongs in 1:03.62 in company with Pleasant Strike.

Invasor has four-furlong breeze

Invasor, a winner of three Grade 1 races since coming to North America, breezed four furlongs in 48.82 seconds Thursday morning. It was his first breeze since winning the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 5. Invasor is preparing for a showdown with leading 3-year-old Bernardini in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 7.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that he tried to give Invasor some down time after the Whitney to have him fresh for a fall campaign. In the winter, Invasor shipped from Florida to Dubai and back. In the spring, he won the Pimlico Special before taking the Suburban and Whitney in the summer.

"The first week or two we tried to walk him five days," McLaughlin said. "We jogged him four or five days. It was so hard because he was such a happy horse, but we did take it easy with him."

McLaughlin also reported that Belmont Stakes winner Jazil was given clearance by Dr. Larry Bramlage to resume training. Jazil was expected to leave owner Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Farm in Kentucky on Friday and arrive at McLaughlin's Belmont Park barn on Saturday.

Jazil has been sidelined since late June because of bruising of a hind cannon bone. McLaughlin said the goal is to try and make the Breeders' Cup Classic with Jazil.

"We didn't miss that much time," McLaughlin said. "It isn't a big issue, so we're hopeful. He's the type of horse you could do that with. I want to get him back and get going."

This Just In euthanized

This Just In, a promising 2-year-old filly owned by Joe Allen and trained by Allen Jerkens, was euthanized after she broke the cannon bone in her right foreleg during the running of Thursday's third race.

Coming off a maiden win in her third career start, This Just In was sent off the even-money favorite in the first-level allowance race. This Just In was a daughter of Pulpit out of the Grade 1-winning mare Glitter Woman. She was a half-sister to stakes winners Ecclesiastic and Teammate.

Jerkens later won the fifth race with Prosperous Queen, but he did not go down to the winner's circle.

"He's very upset," Elisabeth Jerkens said of her husband.

Five Star Daydream, who was also entered in that allowance race, was scratched after popping a splint bone, trainer Shug McGaughey said. McGaughey said the injury is not serious, and hopes to have the promising filly back on the track next week.

Pitts tries again in the Saranac

After disappointing results in her previous two visits to Saratoga this summer, trainer Helen Pitts is ready to embrace that old line about the third time being the charm.

Pitts will saddle Murch, a Mr. Greeley ridgling, in the Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac on Sunday.

"I haven't had the best of luck, and I hope this one is better," Pitts said.

In hot, humid conditions on opening day, Pitts's 2-year-old filly Frances G collapsed in deep stretch of the Grade 3 Schuylerville. Frances G lay motionless on the ground for a short time before being able to get back on her feet.

"She's going to be fine, but she did end up injuring her [right] knee," Pitts said. "They said that what she probably did was have heat exhaustion, then fell and broke her knee when she fell. She is okay and still alive. She's a nice filly, too. That was unfortunate."

Pitts said it is questionable whether Frances G will be able to return to the races.

The second horse Pitts sent to Saratoga, Mary Cat, finished 10th in a field of 12 in a turf allowance on Aug. 6.

"That was tough company up there for her," Pitts said.

Pitts is ready to try Saratoga again, with Murch, whom she felt ran a strong race while finishing sixth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in the American Derby at Arlington Park.

"I hope this trip is a better one than the last two," she said.

Woodward track switch rewarded

Though the Woodward produced the last two winners of the Horse of the Year award, the New York Racing Association decided to move the race from Belmont Park to Saratoga this year. And although the top East Coast handicap horse, Invasor, is not running, the race did draw a solid 11-horse field led by 2005 Jim Dandy and Travers winner Flower Alley.

NYRA's racing secretary, P.J. Campo, said the timing and location of next year's Woodward will be decided at a later date.

"Handicap horses change year to year," Campo said. "Obviously getting rid of the Saratoga Breeders' Cup helped a little. We'll evaluate it when we're doing the 2007 stakes schedule. Timing is everything, at least in this category.

"We rolled the dice, and it worked out for everybody. I think the right horses are here, it's a nice, big field, and it's going to be an excellent race. The Whitney was an excellent race, and moving forward five weeks, the Jockey Club Gold Cup should be a phenomenal race."

Breeder to be honored in Woodward

Jockey John Velazquez will wear a black band on his pants when he rides Flower Alley in Saturday's Woodward Stakes. The band will be in honor of George Brunacini, the breeder of Flower Alley, who was one of 49 people who died Sunday in the crash of a Comair flight in Lexington, Ky.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said owner Eugene Melnyk and his wife decided to dedicate this race in Brunacini's honor.

- additional reporting by David Grening