04/30/2003 11:00PM

Scrimshaw has Derby pedigree, look

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Wayne Lukas doesn't exactly lurk in the shadows, either as a personality or a professional, but his contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby haven't kept him in the limelight as much as usual. But Scrimshaw, whom Lukas trains for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and the handsome colt has some intriguing ties to earlier Derby successes for Lukas.

Scrimshaw is a son of champion sprinter Gulch, who earned his championship with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint but also won the Wood Memorial and two runnings of the Metropolitan Handicap during his racing career. A talented and speedy son of Mr. Prospector, Gulch is too frequently labeled a "sprint sire" due to his championship performance in the Breeders' Cup.

The evidence of his racing and stud careers shows that he is far more versatile. After defeating Gone West by a head in the Wood, Gulch ran sixth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby. That was not the performance of a non-stayer, and he followed up his Derby effort with a fourth-place finish in the Preakness.

Both races were won by Alysheba over Bet Twice, but in the Belmont, Bet Twice ran the most impressive race of his career, winning by 14 lengths. Alysheba ran nearly his worst race, finishing fourth, beaten a head by Gulch. Furthermore, Cryptoclearance had beaten Gulch by 3 1/2 lengths in the shorter Preakness but finished only a nose ahead of his rival in the 12-furlong Belmont.

Gulch's best runners have typically expressed one facet or another of their sire's versatility. Some have been milers, other sprinters, while some have excelled at classic distances. The best of these is champion Thunder Gulch, who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Like Scrimshaw, both Thunder Gulch and Gulch were trained by Lukas.

The Lewises acquired Scrimshaw for $550,000 at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training last year. A very strong and progressive juvenile, Scrimshaw has grown into an outstanding physical specimen at 3, and he clearly possesses considerable athletic ability.

Bred in Kentucky by Stan and Ingrid Stefanski, Scrimshaw was a strong and attractive colt who brought $125,000 as a short yearling at the Keeneland January sale in 2001. Resold as a 2-year-old in training last year, Scrimshaw brought more than four times that sum and appears a good value for that price, being a graded stakes winner by a good stallion who has already sired another important sire.

Scrimshaw's positive attributes are not limited to his sire line. He is a most taking individual, being a rich, dark bay with a blaze down his face. The colt possesses the rounded muscle and balanced physique typical of the better-quality Mr. Prospectors. Scrimshaw has a particularly good hind leg, and that doubtless was one of the ingredients that attracted Lukas and the Lewises to this colt, as he has the muscling behind to be a quick and handy horse that can adapt to racing as circumstances dictate.

Nor do Scrimshaw's Derby ties end with his sire line and trainer. The colt is out of Rogue Girl, a winning daughter of Sham. Sham ran a magnificent race when beaten by Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, and also finished second to the Triple Crown winner in the Preakness Stakes.

A dark brown son of Pretense and the Princequillo mare Sequoia, Sham was bred by A.B. "Bull" Hancock Jr. and sold for $200,000 to Sigmund Sommer at the Hancock dispersal sale in the late fall of 1972. Sham was a big horse, lengthy and tall, and he showed a certain amount of coarseness that doubtless limited some of his offspring as potential sales horses. Best seen in motion, Sham made a splendid figure as a racehorse during the first half of his 3-year-old season. He had excellent stride length and very good power once he was in gear.

Sham came to his best form at 3, when he won the Santa Catalina Stakes, then the Santa Anita Derby before traveling east to confront Secretariat for the first time in the Wood Memorial. Both lost to Angle Light, but Sham managed to best Secretariat and really stirred up the Triple Crown commentary prior to a Derby that had been virtually conceded to the great son of Bold Ruler.

In addition to proving a worthy competitor for Secretariat, Sham has found a continuing legacy in the pedigrees of good-class racehorses. Sham made a useful stallion at Spendthrift Farm, siring such Grade 1 winners as Arewehavingfunyet and Sherry Peppers. His daughters have produced winners at the highest level, including Defensive Play (Man o' War and Strub winner) and Dixie Brass (Metropolitan Handicap).