04/26/2005 11:00PM

Lukas undaunted by recent results

Flower Alley gallops over the Churchill Downs track Wednesday morning. With the withdrawal of Storm Surge, he is one of 22 horses still being pointed for the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A little more than a month ago, all was right in the world for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He had won three stakes races at Santa Anita with his tag team of Consolidator and Going Wild, both of whom appeared on target for the May 7 Kentucky Derby here at Churchill Downs.

Both are still headed to the Derby, but hardly in the manner Lukas would have envisioned. Consolidator, after running away with Santa Anita's San Felipe Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths, was a troubled and well-beaten fifth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Going Wild, who won three straight races at Santa Anita, including the San Miguel and Sham stakes, was beaten by 41 lengths when he finished last of seven in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He then came back last Saturday and, though improving by nearly 25 lengths, still was beaten by more than 16 lengths finishing fifth in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Despite the setbacks, Lukas is moving on. Consolidator, he believes, was the victim of a bad trip in the Blue Grass and is capable of rebounding. Lukas concedes that Going Wild's last two races were poor, but maintains the colt continues to train strongly.

"The only thing I can go on is that they're both doing so well here," Lukas said outside his Churchill Downs barn on a chilly Wednesday morning. "You know me, I've won the Derby with $30 and $40 horses. The horse that's really doing super is Going Wild. I know if you tried to sell that to someone, you wouldn't get very far. I just have to call on 25 years of doing this, my experience, and knowing more than someone who's not here. I go on that."

Consolidator was the lone Derby candidate to work out on Wednesday. He came on the track while Churchill Downs was still enveloped in darkness, just after 6 a.m. On a track listed as muddy following steady rain on Tuesday, Consolidator breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 with exercise rider Stacy Maker. The time equaled the second-best of 12 at the distance behind the near-disastrous workout of the fleet filly Madcap Escapade, who narrowly avoided colliding with another horse Wednesday morning.

"The track was deep," Lukas said. "It was peanut-buttery. I wanted Stacy to keep a hold of him, hold him together. I didn't want him to do a lot. I felt we got everything we needed."

Lukas said he was not sure if Consolidator would work again next week.

"I might give him an open gallop, or a two-minute lick," Lukas said. "I'll just let his energy guide me. If he needs to do something more, we'll do it. If he needs to be a little fresher, we'll adjust. A race at Keeneland generally stresses a horse."

Consolidator, a son of Storm Cat who cost owners Bob and Beverly Lewis $1.25 million as a yearling, usually races on or near the lead. But in the Blue Grass, he did not break as alertly as in previous races, then was shuffled back heading into the first turn under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

"Bejarano made some bad decisions," Lukas said. "I think it surprised him that when he took a hold that he dropped back as much as he did."

Bejarano will ride Consolidator back in the Derby, though, Lukas said.

Going Wild is still without a rider.

"I've got to get a hungry guy who believes in what we're doing," Lukas said. "One of those millionaire riders won't go for it."

A month ago, riders would have been lining up for both mounts, but their Derby ranking has dipped. Lukas is not one to second-guess himself, but even he admitted the decision to bypass the Santa Anita Derby with both colts might have been a mistake.

"It would have been easier to run at Santa Anita, especially in light of how the race came up so bad," Lukas said. "We had made a game plan, and I wanted to stick with it. In hindsight, it might have been better to stay. We'd have been the favorite. Whether we'd have won or not remains to be seen. And there's something to be said about running out of your own barn. On the other hand, this shipping around may help us in the long run."

In other Derby developments Wednesday:

* Storm Surge was officially pulled from consideration for the Derby by trainer Dallas Stewart, who said he would opt for easier spots. Stewart said the Grade 3, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park on May 14 was a possibility.

* With Storm Surge out, that leaves 22 horses still under consideration for Derby 131. The Derby is limited to a maximum of 20 entrants, based on graded stakes earnings, and with preference given to those previously nominated. If the current lineup remains intact through entry day next Wednesday, the horses who would be excluded would be Going Wild, because of insufficient earnings, and Greeley's Galaxy, who was not nominated and thus would have to be supplemented to the race.


WHO'S HOT: Coin Silver is making his first appearance on Derby Watch following his upset victory last Saturday in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. He is 30-1 on the future line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. Don't Get Mad also has been added to the list. He is an iffy proposition for the Derby, pending his performance in the Derby Trial this Saturday at Churchill Downs and the status of supplemental entry Greeley's Galaxy, whom owner B. Wayne Hughes would prefer to run. Watchmaker pegged Don't Get Mad at 50-1. Bellamy Road, the Derby favorite, is 3-1 after being 7-2 one week ago.

WHO'S NOT: Four horses - Storm Surge, Survivalist, Rockport Harbor, and Wild Desert - were on the list last week, but have been dropped now that their connections have removed them from Derby consideration. Going Wild, who was 50-1 one week ago, was raised to 80-1 by Watchmaker following the Lexington, his second straight poor race.

ON THE BUBBLE: With the Derby Trial no longer a graded stakes race, it seems as though all cards have been exposed for Derby 131. Now, the question is whether all who want to run will run. As of Friday, there were 22 horses whose connections were still desirous of running in the race, but the Derby field is capped at 20.