05/27/2009 12:00AM

Lukas may take two shots at elusive fifth


Four times in the last 15 years, trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Belmont Stakes. He won three straight from 1994-96, with Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch, and Editor's Note, then did it again with Commendable in 2000.

Since then, though, Lukas has had just four Belmont starters - Buckle Down Ben, Proud Citizen, Scrimshaw, and A.P. Arrow - none of whom did better than fifth.

But on June 6, Lukas could very well take two shots at capturing the Belmont for the fifth time. Both Flying Private and Luv Gov, who ran in the Preakness on May 16, on Wednesday remained on course for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont with six-furlong workouts at Churchill Downs.

Luv Gov, who finished eighth in the Preakness, had the faster time, 1:12.40, the second-best of five at the distance on Wednesday morning. Flying Private, who was fourth in the Preakness, was timed in 1:15.40.

Of the two, Flying Private is the more accomplished. Although he has won just once in 12 starts, and finished last in the Kentucky Derby, Flying Private ran a deceptively good race in the Preakness. Flying Private moved in tandem on the far turn with Mine That Bird, and both ended up vying for the same gap at the quarter pole. Flying Private had to check before heading inside, while Mine That Bird took up and then went outside. Flying Private finished just four lengths behind the victorious Rachel Alexandra.

Earlier this year, Flying Private finished second in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, and was fifth in the Arkansas Derby. The Belmont would be his ninth start of the year. He and Derby winner Mine That Bird are the only two likely Belmont starters who have competed in both the Derby and the Preakness.

Luv Gov also only has a maiden win to his credit, but it took him 10 starts to break through. The Preakness was his first start against anything other than maidens. Luv Gov never threatened while finishing eighth in the field of 13.

"Wayne said he worked real well and that we ought to take a chance," John Hendrickson, who races Luv Gov with his wife, Marylou Whitney, said in a telephone call. "We've gone off at higher than 30-1 before."

Indeed, in 2004, Hendrickson and Whitney won the Belmont with Birdstone, who was 36-1.

Birdstone is the sire of two potential Belmont starters, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.

If Lukas were to get his fifth Belmont win, it would pull him into a tie with Woody Stephens, who won five straight Belmonts from 1982-86. Stephens is fourth all-time in Belmont wins. James Rowe won the race eight times from 1883-1913. Sam Hildreth won it seven times from 1899-1924. And Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons won it six times from 1930-1955, including with Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935).