04/28/2014 12:31PM

Lukas keeps watch on Medal Count

Barbara D. Livingston
Medal Count will be making his third start in 30 days when he runs in the Kentucky Derby. The last horse to win the Derby racing three times within 30 days was the Wayne Lukas-trained Charismatic in 1999.

Four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas won’t have a starter this year, but there are a few story lines he will be watching with interest. Among them is Medal Count, set to make his third start in 30 days after winning the Transylvania Stakes on April 4 and finishing second in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

The last Derby winner to keep such an ambitious schedule – a rarity in top-level racing in the modern era – was the Lukas trainee Charismatic in 1999, with three starts in 29 days. The colt finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, won the Lexington Stakes on April 18, and won the Derby on May 1. He took the Preakness two weeks later, then was third while suffering a career-ending injury in the Belmont Stakes.

“Charismatic was a big, heavy horse who never ran a good race till I really pushed him and pushed him and pushed him to get him fit,” Lukas said. “And he handled it really well, and then he came back two weeks later and won again. As a trainer, you just have to read them day to day to see if they can handle it. Most of them can’t. But I’m not saying that it won’t work [for Medal Count]. It worked for me, but I don’t know their horse.”

For his part, Medal Count is continuing to thrive. The colt was full of energy while jogging two miles Monday in his first trip to the track after breezing Saturday.

“The big thing coming out of the Transylvania was he had to get right back into his feed tub, he had to have not lost any weight, and he had to be happy in training and aggressive in what he’s doing,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He came out of [the Blue Grass] just as fresh and happy. He’s one of these horses that the more you do with him, the better he gets. He’s kind of a throwback horse. I think he’s a horse that the more we do, the better he’ll get.”

Lukas added that while a trainer can identify a robust horse who might improve under a heavy schedule, the true test comes in the heat of the moment.

“You can look at them and say he’s doing well, he’s not tucked up, he’s in the feed tub and everything,” Lukas said. “But you really don’t know in your heart until they turn at the quarter pole.”