07/05/2001 11:00PM

Second-tier Lukas in Bashford


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As much success as D. Wayne Lukas typically enjoys early in the spring meet at Churchill Downs, he also has an enviable record in races at the end of the meet.

Lukas, with four wins in both the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, is the all-time leading trainer in the Bashford Manor Stakes, which highlights Sunday's closing-day program at Churchill. Lukas has sent out five 2-year-olds to capture the Grade 2 Bashford Manor, including the last three winners: Time Bandit (1998), Dance Master (1999) and Duality (2000).

On Sunday, when the $125,000 Bashford Manor is run for the 100th time, Lukas will make a calculated play. He will leave perhaps his best 2-year-old colt, Jump Start, in Barn 44, while leading over Storm Passage as his only starter in the six-furlong race.

Lukas is planning on saving Jump Start for the prestigious series of juvenile races at Saratoga, which begins with the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes on July 26. But with Storm Passage, a Storm Cat colt who prevailed as the favorite in his first and only start on May 26, Lukas stands a solid chance to win his sixth Bashford Manor.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," Lukas said of Storm Passage, an Overbrook Farm homebred. "He's not a big, imposing colt like a couple of the others we're getting great reviews on. He doesn't have to have a lot of things happen for him to win. He can make his own luck."

Only four horses are scheduled to oppose Storm Passage, who will start under Pat Day from the outside post. Probably the strongest challengers are Binyamin, an impressive winner of a June 2 maiden race, and Lunar Bounty, who ships down from Arlington Park after making a winning debut on June 21 for trainer Ronny Werner.

Earlier this year, Werner made quite an impression on Kentucky fans by sending out several 2-year-old winners.

The rest of the field includes Still Be Smokin' and Mannymissedagain.

The Bashford Manor is carded as the ninth of 11 races on Sunday, the 52nd and final day of racing at the spring meet that began April 28. The best undercard race appears to be the 10th, a $59,800 turf allowance that attracted several stakes-class older horses.

With Churchill closing, action on the Kentucky circuit shifts Wednesday to Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., for a 41-day meet that runs through Sept. 3.