07/03/2003 11:00PM

Lukas makes it Debutante win No. 5


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had all his bases covered. With a furlong to go in Friday's $110,900 Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, Be Gentle had pulled away from every other filly in the field - except for her Lukas-trained stablemate Renaissance Lady.

At the finish, Be Gentle was still in front to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths over Renaissance Lady and give Lukas a record fifth Debutante win. Sweet Jo Jo finished another 4 1/2 lengths back in third in a field of eight 2-year-old fillies.

Be Gentle, by Tale of the Cat, was ridden by Cornelio Velasquez and is owned by Tom VanMeter. She returned $5.60 as second choice after finishing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.96 over a fast track. Renaissance Lady, the 8-5 favorite under Pat Day, completed a $2 exacta worth $14.

The Grade 3 Debutante was just the second career start for Be Gentle, who won a May 11 maiden race by 8 1/2 lengths.

Lukas had been tied with the late Doug Davis Jr. for the most wins by a trainer in the Debutante, which dates to 1895.

Be Gentle went to the lead at the start, and by the time she got to the top of the stretch, Lukas said he felt "real comfortable. I started watching Renaissance Lady then."

Lukas said a graded race at Saratoga could be next for either filly.

After Sweet Jo Jo came Secret Romance, Lady's Room, In Rome Cryptos' Best, and Go Grace Go. Thesmellofhoney was an early scratch.

Ontrack attendance in sultry weather was 8,456.

* In earlier Friday action, Molto Vita ($7) won a classified allowance race for 3-year-old fillies; Contested ($21.20) captured the final leg of the Ten Broeck Championships for starter-allowance routers; and Dixie Tactics ($7.40) won a classified allowance race for filly and mare turf sprinters.