04/06/2006 12:00AM

Lukas hopes to fire things up at Keeneland


LEXINGTON, Ky. - D. Wayne Lukas speaks glowingly about the men and women he has mentored in the art of training racehorses. The list of former Lukas assistants who have become successful trainers gets longer every year, and one of them, Todd Pletcher, has been threatening in recent years to out-Lukas the man himself with his astounding training feats.

Having established such a remarkable legacy, it might be easy to forget that Lukas is still beating everyone to the barn in the morning, still saddling the occasional winner, and still looking for that fifth Kentucky Derby winner. The fact he recently consolidated his stable entirely in Kentucky - in its heyday, the Lukas empire stretched coast-to-coast, entrenched in three or four different spots - is a tell-tale sign that he no longer carries anywhere near the clout he once had, but he is not someone to be easily discouraged.

Lukas, who has about 65 horses split between full barns at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, said on a quiet recent morning at Churchill that he expects to "be more active than I have been" at recent Keeneland meets, "if only because of the numbers."

"With everything back here in one spot, " he said, "we've got more bullets to fire right now."

Perhaps more than any other track, Keeneland is a primary target for Lukas. Even during years when he has brought precious little momentum into the spring meet - and this year would be a great example, since he has won only seven races so far - Lukas has proved that there aren't many trainers who are more capable of suddenly getting red-hot.

"With me being more hands-on, you'd hope we might be able to get some good things done this month," he said.

Lukas, 70, is the all-time leading trainer at Keeneland in races won (260), stakes won (50), and meet titles (16). Indeed, as a Hall of Famer with nearly 4,400 career victories, he knows his way to the winner's circle.

"I've got a couple of nice 2-year-olds that should be ready to go in a couple of weeks," he said. "Other than that, I can't think of any specific horse or race. But we'll be well represented, you can be sure."

Brass Hat relaxing on Kentucky farm

Brass Hat, the runner-up in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 25, returned to Kentucky in perfect shape and is getting some time off at Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort. He is on schedule to make the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 17 at Churchill.

"We're going to give him this month off," trainer Buff Bradley said Thursday. "I've got him turned out at the farm, and he's really it enjoying out there. It seems he came out better than he did from the Donn Handicap," which Brass Hat won on Feb. 4.

"He goes in the round pen and gets to bucking and jumping in there, and then we turn him out in a small paddock," Bradley said. "He's in great shape."

Brass Hat, a 5-year-old gelding bred and owned by Bradley's father, Fred, led to deep stretch in the World Cup before giving way by 1 1/2 lengths to Electrocutionist. Finishing second was worth $1.2 million.

Not only did the Bradleys reap a tremendous financial windfall, but they made memories to last a lifetime. Bradley was accompanied on the trip by his daughter Kory, who turned 11 the day after the World Cup.

"One day we went water-sliding and snow skiing in the same day," he said. "The whole trip was fabulous."

Summerly works toward comeback

Summerly, the 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner, is on the comeback trail. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Summerly posted her second breeze since returning from a splint injury when she went an easy half-mile in 50.80 seconds Tuesday at Churchill.

"She came back to me around the first of February at Palm Meadows," said Asmussen. "We worked her once before leaving there," a half-mile in 53 seconds.

Summerly, owned by Ronald Winchell, was injured Aug. 8 in a workout at Saratoga, where she was preparing for the Alabama Stakes. Asmussen said his only specific target this year is the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Churchill.

"Churchill hosting the Breeders' Cup is the only reason she's in training," he said. "She really seems to love the track."

Don't Get Mad and Suave aren't ready to run

Plans for two top older horses stabled together at Churchill are on hold. Neither Don't Get Mad nor Suave, both stabled in Barn 39 with trainer Paul McGee, are in serious training.

Suave "just needs a break" after being the beaten favorite in the Clark, Donn, and Gulfstream Park handicaps, said McGee, while Don't Get Mad, who arrived about two weeks ago after being turned out on a Southern California farm, recently underwent minor throat surgery. Both are walking daily on the shed row.

$16 million juvenile coming to Churchill

The Green Monkey, the 2-year-old colt who was sold for a world-record $16 million at the Fasig-Tipton sale at Calder on Feb. 28, is expected to arrive any day at Churchill, according to Pletcher's staff at Keeneland. Pletcher has large strings at both Keeneland and Churchill.

The Green Monkey, by Forestry, was purchased by Coolmore Stud following a dramatic bidding war with Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

Trackside reopens, temporarily

The start of the Keeneland meet on Friday coincided with the temporary reopening of the Trackside simulcast annex in Louisville. After last year's Kentucky Derby, Churchill closed Trackside, intending it to be on a permanent basis. However, there was a sharp decrease in simulcast handle at its main plant in subsequent months, which was a primary reason for the recent decision to reopen Trackside. Many horseplayers in Louisville, easily the largest simulcast market in Kentucky, had informed Churchill management that they preferred the familiarity and convenience of Trackside.

Trackside will be open throughout Keeneland (to April 28), and on Kentucky Oaks and Derby days (May 5-6), but is not scheduled to reopen again, even after Churchill concludes its spring meet July 16.

* Churchill scheduled a media conference for Thursday afternoon to trumpet the arrival of the winning owner's trophy for the 132nd Derby. New England Sterling Inc., of Attleboro, Mass., creates the trophy, which is believed to be the only solid gold trophy awarded annually to the winner of an American sports event.