04/09/2003 11:00PM

Lukas rearranges Ramseys' plans


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The plane ticket was purchased. The hotel had been reserved. Ken Ramsey was going to go to Oaklawn Park to watch Ten Cents a Shine in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, while his wife, Sarah, was going to remain here at Keeneland to see their colt Badge of Silver in the Blue Grass Stakes.

But then D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Ten Cents a Shine, called.

Lukas, said Ken Ramsey, "gave me a 15-minute dissertation on why we should run in the Blue Grass instead of the Arkansas Derby."

Done. Cancel the plane ticket. Cancel the hotel room. For the Ramseys, they are now trying to double their pleasure in the Blue Grass.

"We're hoping for a dead heat," Ramsey said Thursday morning.

This has been a trying spring for the Ramseys. Ten Cents a Shine, originally trained by Ken McPeek, was favored in the Fountain of Youth Stakes but finished sixth of eight. Ramsey then sent him to Lukas in California. In his lone start for Lukas, Ten Cents a Shine was eighth of 10 in the San Felipe Stakes.

Badge of Silver won two starts earlier this year, including the Risen Star Stakes, but then was sixth in the Louisiana Derby.

A third Ramsey 3-year-old, Nothing to Lose, won the Tropical Park Derby on turf, but later was sent to the sidelines with a fracture before he could return to the main track and make a bid for the Kentucky Derby, a race Ken Ramsey dearly desires.

"If nothing else, we've won one Derby this year," he said.

Owner Robbins believes in trainer Smith

T.V. Smith has been training for 40 years. Lansdon Robbins has not been alive that long. But they have forged a successful partnership through Azalea Stables, which is headed by Robbins and owns Holy Bull Stakes winner Offlee Wild, who runs in the Blue Grass.

Robbins, 38, founded the company Service Net in 1996. It has become a hugely successful business. "We are the Maytag repairman, literally," Robbins said. "Companies like Maytag, Gateway, Dell, Hoover - any company with durable goods outside auto parts - outsources its repairs to us. We do extended warranties for Office Depot. We're like an HMO - we're health care for your home."

The business success has enabled Robbins, who lives in Louisville, to dive into racing. He owns four horses through Azalea and another 45 or 50 in various other partnerships. Robbins said he had "a hard time" selling shares in Azalea because the horses were earmarked for Smith, but Robbins has nothing but praise and admiration for the veteran, hands-on trainer.

"He's with the horses every day," Robbins said. "He's a very patient trainer. He's a true horsemen's horseman. I'm very proud of him."

Robbins named the stable Azalea in part because he is a huge fan of the Masters golf tournament, where azaleas are seen in bloom every spring, and because he wanted a business listing that would be at or near the top of any alphabetized roster.

Nothing ventured, nothing lost

Acceptable Venture has won just once in five starts, and most recently finished second in the Rushaway Stakes, a minor stakes run on the undercard of the more prestigious Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. But despite being eligible for an entry-level allowance race, the Dale Romans-trained Acceptable Venture will take on the likes of Badge of Silver, Offlee Wild, and Peace Rules in the Blue Grass.

"We think he has a lot of untapped potential," said Nathan Fox, whose Wafare Farm owns Acceptable Venture, along with his father, Richard, and Richard Kaster. "Dale said he was working so well he'd like to take a shot."

Fox appealed to the racing gods to smile on him. "By the way, my family only drives Toyota," he said. Toyota sponsors the Blue Grass.

Lots of Sizzle: Another start, another rider

The longshot Lots of Sizzle will be making the eighth start of his career in the Blue Grass. And he will have his eighth different rider, with Jason Lumpkins picking up where, in order, Jon Court, Curt Bourque, Robby Albarado, Frank Lovato Jr., Donnie Meche, Brice Blanc, and Luis Rivera Jr. left off.

"He's first-time Lumpkins, which I think is better than first-time Lasix," said Dallas Keen, the trainer of Lots of Sizzle.

Great Notion goes home

Great Notion spent much of the winter at Oaklawn Park, where he gave 36-year-old trainer Darrin Miller his first career stakes win by capturing the Southwest Stakes. Great Notion then ran second as the odds-on favorite in the Rebel Stakes, after which Miller said he was inclined to keep the colt at Oaklawn for the final and richest leg of the track's series of prep races, the Arkansas Derby.

But the longer that Miller and the colt's owners, Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton of Silverton Hills Farm, thought about it, the more they leaned toward bringing Great Notion to Kentucky to show off before the home folks.

Not only did Great Notion start his career on the Kentucky circuit but also the Hamiltons live some 40 miles south of Lexington in Springfield, Ky. - and the idea of winning the signature race at Keeneland, where the couple frequently attends the races, became too tempting to pass up.

Tommy Hamilton said at the Thursday post position draw that the prospect of a short field for the Blue Grass also was a reason to bring Great Notion back to Kentucky, but then, in mock surprise, he glanced at an entry sheet that showed 10 horses in the race.

"They said there was only going to be about five horses in here," he said. "Well, we're here now."

Paasch to Roman Dancer: "Ouch!"

Chris Paasch, who will run Crowned Dancer in the Blue Grass, is sporting a new cast on his left wrist, courtesy of one of his stable stars, Roman Dancer.

Earlier this week, Paasch was loading Roman Dancer onto a horse trailer for a trip to New York, where the colt will run Saturday in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct. "I had my arm in there when the horse decided to back up and smash it right between the doors," said Paasch.

There are recent precedents, both good and bad, regarding wounded limbs for a horse trainer coming up to a big race. Elliott Walden broke his ankle playing basketball before the 1998 Belmont Stakes, then saddled Victory Gallop to the trainer's greatest career win.

Then again, Ken McPeek tore his Achilles tendon only days after winning the Blue Grass last year with Harlan's Holiday. In his next race, Harlan's Holiday lost the Kentucky Derby as the favorite.

Pino's travels now include Keeneland

Mario Pino has ridden more than 5,000 winners in a sensational career dating back nearly 25 years. Through the years, the Maryland-based jockey has traveled to a wide variety of racetracks, but until Thursday, he had never seen Keeneland and the pastoral beauty it has to offer.

Pino and trainer Tony Dutrow flew into Lexington early Thursday for the Beaumont Stakes, in which they teamed with Elegant Designer. They had a couple of hours to kill, so they strolled around the grounds, taking in the sights.

"It's about time I got here," said Pino. "I'd always heard so much about it. Everything looks great."

Morse seeks another sprint stakes win

Trainer Randy Morse will be looking to extend his dominance in turf sprints in Kentucky when he runs Testify and Beau's Town in the richest race on the Saturday undercard, the $100,000 Shakertown Stakes.

Since 2000, Morse has won five Kentucky stakes for turf sprinters. Testify is the more accomplished of Morse's uncoupled duo Saturday, but Beau's Town is a rapid gelding who rates a solid chance under Mike Smith.

An overflow field (10 plus one also-eligible) was entered in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown, which is carded as the seventh of 10 races.

* Racing officials are looking for sizable fields for the two graded stakes here Sunday. The $250,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup, a Grade 2 for older horses at seven furlongs, is expected to be headed by the standout California sprinter, Crafty C.T. Probable favorites for the sub-feature, the $100,000, Grade 3 Jenny Wiley Stakes, are Quick Tip and Party Queen.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee