01/23/2007 12:00AM

Well-stocked Lukas off to good start

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Joseph DiOrio/Horsephotos
Wayne Lukas

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Wayne Lukas said last month that Oaklawn Park's 3-year-old program was one reason he had sent his entire stable here this winter, and he wasted little time taking advantage of his opportunities during the track's three-day opening weekend. Lukas had starters in all nine 3-year-old races, and won three of them to take the early lead in the trainer standings.

The wins came with his most accomplished 3-year-old, Pegasus Wind, staying in the barn. Lukas said he is preparing Pegasus Wind for the $250,000 Southwest here Feb. 19. Starbase, who wired an optional claiming field Saturday, could also start in that stakes.

Starbase, who earned a Beyer Figure of 81, was one of two winners Lukas had on the card. He won the nightcap with Flashstorm, who led throughout to win his maiden at 1o1/16 miles. Lukas was back in the winner's circle Sunday with Storm Force, a six-furlong maiden winner who is out of the same mare as Grade 2 winner Boston Common and Grade 3 winner Storm Surge. Along the way, there were some close finishes for the barn last weekend, and some troubled trips, most notably the one experienced by Westwon, the seventh-place finisher in the $50,000 Dixieland on Friday. Westwon came into the race off a maiden win at Keeneland.

"I thought Westwon got a really rough trip the other day in the stakes," said Lukas. "That's a nice horse, and I think he'll show that when he goes two turns. He got in trouble two or three times in that race."

Pegasus Wind was third in the Grade 1 Champagne last year, then ran 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 here Sunday.

"We're looking at the Southwest for him," said Lukas, who noted the colt displaced his palate in the Breeders' Cup. "He was running really well at the head of the stretch, it looked like he could even win it, then he displaced. But it looks like that's behind him. We haven't had any trouble since."

Lukas has made a change in bits with Pegasus Wind.

Flashstorm, a son of Storm Cat, was strong on the front end in a maiden special weight race. "He's just learning, but he's getting better," said Lukas.

Other notable starters for Lukas last weekend included Fast Deal, who ran second in the $50,000 American Beauty, a sprint for fillies and mares. She should see stakes action again next time, said Lukas.

There was also Grace Happens, second to High Heels in an optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies Sunday. Last year, Grace Happens was fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Belmont Park.

Lukas had 13 starters opening weekend, with 3 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds for purse earnings of $81,780. He has 40 horses on the grounds this meet, about double what he had here last year after having split his stable between Oaklawn and Santa Anita.

'Three strikes' rule in force

The backstretch security measures Oaklawn introduced last year, which include increased camera surveillance and a roving monitor who patrols the stable area, have remained in place for the new meet. There is also a new rule concerning trainers who come up with multiple medication infractions at the track, said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn.

"The three strikes and your out rule has been passed," he said.

The rule punishes trainers who have three medication positives within a two-year period with up to a year's suspension.

The two-year period began last Friday with the opening of the meet. The rule concerns only medication infractions at Oaklawn.

Big crowds attend opening

Oaklawn drew 46,258 patrons over its three-day opening weekend, while $11.4 million was bet on the track's live races from all sources during that period. The opening crowd Friday was 20,070, and betting on the nine-race card was $4.5 million, with $1.4 million of that amount bet ontrack. Saturday's turnout was 18,901, with another $4.5 million bet on the nine-race card. Of that amount, $1.3 million was handled ontrack. For the Sunday program, Oaklawn drew 7,287 and handled $2.3 million on its nine-race card, $569,557 of which was bet ontrack at Oaklawn.

* The seven fillies in the first race Sunday finished in post position order, with High Heels, the 1 horse, winning the race. The odds of the field coming in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 was 1 in 5,040, said Bobby Geiger, an official at Oaklawn.

* Oaklawn has added a second horse ambulance this meet, a decision made following last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff in which two horses broke down.