06/05/2003 12:00AM

Lukas most dangerous when he's overlooked


ELMONT, N.Y. - Lurking in the shadows of the 135th Belmont Stakes is trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who sends out longshot Scrimshaw in "the test of the champion."

As he has proved over and over in the Triple Crown, Lukas does his best work when he is overlooked. Lukas, who is tied with "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons for most Triple Crown race victories with 13, has won the Belmont four times. Only once - with Thunder Gulch ($5) in 1995 - was his horse favored. Lukas won the race in 1994 with Tabasco Cat ($8.80) and in 1996 with Editor's Note ($13.40), but his biggest upset came in the 2000 Belmont with Commendable ($39.60).

Both Editor's Note and Thunder Gulch won the Belmont coming out of third-place finishes in the Preakness. Likewise, Scrimshaw finished third in the Preakness after finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby. He was beaten by 10 1/2 lengths in both races.

"That's not very much to make up in a mile and a half, though," Lukas said. "If the horse has that physical ability, you can make up 10 1/2 lengths at a mile and a half."

Scrimshaw, a son of 1987 Belmont third-place finisher Gulch, demonstrated his ability by winning his first two starts. After losing his next two starts, both stakes, Scrimshaw missed more than a month of training from mid-February to late March after undergoing throat surgery to correct a breathing problem.

He earned his way into the Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Scrimshaw showed early speed in the Preakness, but he was soon overtaken by Peace Rules and Funny Cide. Still, he ran well enough to hold third. Scrimshaw figures to be forwardly placed Saturday under Gary Stevens.

"The fact we can manage [his speed] is our strong suit," Lukas said. "We can get into the race, but I'll be surprised if he isn't relaxed while being right here."

It is also noteworthy that Stevens has won this race three times from seven mounts.

"It's huge," Lukas said. "I've lost many races here because of riders, more than my horses. Spain should have never lost the Breeders' Cup here. It's not the Belmont, it's the mile-and-a-half oval. You've got to know where the five-eighths pole and the three-eighths pole is."

Realistic expectations for Supervisor

Linda Rice, who will become the eighth female trainer to saddle a horse in the Belmont Stakes, said she'd be tickled if Supervisor could finish third. Supervisor figures to be the longest price in the six-horse field.

"If we picked up a nice check, we'd all be happy," said Rice, who trains Supervisor for owner-breeder Rodney Lundock of Lowell, Fla. "I'd like to be third. Mr. Lundock owns the mare; I own Silver Rail, who is a half-sister to him. Sarava won at 70-1 last year, so anything can happen."

Supervisor, a son of Skip Trial, comes off a third-place finish in the Peter Pan here May 24. He also finished fourth, one place ahead of Funny Cide, in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 18.

Supervisor was trained by Emanuel Tortora in Florida, but Lundock sent the horse to Rice for the Peter Pan with the idea that if Supervisor paid his way to run in the Belmont, Lundock would take a shot. By finishing third in the Peter Pan, Supervisor earned $22,000. It costs $20,000 to enter and run in the Belmont.

Rice believes Supervisor's strength is that he trains like a horse who would relish the distance.

"Not that many horses can handle the mile and a half," Rice said. "He might be one of those that can. We're in a position where there's no pressure. Actually, I'm enjoying it. We're taking a shot."

Five-week break often fails In 2000, Commendable became the first horse to come out of the Kentucky Derby and win the Belmont without having raced in the five-week period in between the two classic races.

Since 1980, 25 horses have tried to accomplish that feat. Among the more highly regarded horses who failed were Rampage, who finished seventh as the 5-2 favorite in the 1986 Belmont; Thirty Six Red, who finished second as the 7-2 second choice in 1990; Strodes Creek, who finished third as the 6-5 favorite in 1994; and Aptitude, who finished second as the 8-5 favorite in the 2000 running.

In 2000, neither the Kentucky Derby winner (Fusaichi Pegasus) nor the Preakness winner (Red Bullet) ran in the Belmont.

This year, Empire Maker, who finished second as the Kentucky Derby favorite, and Ten Most Wanted, ninth as the third choice in the Derby, are trying to win the Belmont without having run in between.

Clintons might root for Funny Cide

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, apparently are fans of Funny Cide.

According to Jack Knowlton, managing partner of the Sackatoga Stable syndicate which owns Funny Cide, the senator sent him a note this week about attending the Belmont Stakes.

"I received a nice message from Senator Clinton saying she would like to meet us on Saturday," Knowlton said outside Funny Cide's barn Thursday morning.

New York Racing Association officials said they received inquiries on behalf of the senator about attending the races on Saturday but had no confirmation as of early Thursday afternoon of whether the Clintons would be in attendance.

The Clintons attended the 2001 Belmont.

Extra entertainment on tap

The Harlem Jazz & Music Festival and the Mohawk Valley skydivers will provide entertainment on Belmont Stakes Day.

Saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood and organist Jimmy "Preacher" Robins will perform a duet on the Belmont apron from 9 to 10:30 a.m. More artists will perform throughout the day, including trumpet soloist Joey Morant and vocalist Meli'sa Morgan, who will sing "God Bless America" at 2:45 p.m., coinciding with the Mohawk Valley Skydiving Team's free-fall.

* The All Star Buglers, a group of buglers from racetracks around the country, will play the call at noon for Saturday's first race. Sam Grossman, the bugler for NYRA, will be joined by Mark O'Keeffe of Laurel Park, Richard Garrick from Philadelphia Park, Andy Reese from Tampa Bay Downs, and Frank Hughes from Monmouth Park.

* The NYRA communications office says it will issue more than 1,200 media credentials for Saturday. Last year, NYRA issued a record 1,050 credentials for War Emblem's failed bid at winning the Triple Crown.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson