05/24/2007 11:00PM

Whitney horses move to Lukas barn

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D. Wayne Lukas and Marylou Whitney, two of the most powerful names in Thoroughbred racing, are joining forces. Whitney has retained Lukas to be her private trainer, replacing Reynaldo Abreu.

The 16 horses that Whitney has with Abreu in Lexington, Ky., were expected to be moved to Lukas's Churchill barn over the weekend.

John Hendrickson, Whitney's husband and stable manager, said Abreu needed to take some time off to address family issues. This will be the first time Whitney has had horses with Lukas, a Hall of Fame trainer who is Thoroughbred racing's all-time leader in purse money won. Lukas, a four-time Eclipse Award winner, has won 13 classic races.

"We've never had horses with Wayne," Hendrickson said. "He's been a friend of ours for a long time. His record speaks for itself."

Lukas, who has downsized his stable in recent years, said he was looking forward to working with Whitney, who won the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Travers with Birdstone and the 2003 Kentucky Oaks with Bird Town.

"I'm excited to get into that program to see if we can put them where they'd like to be," Lukas said. "That's in the winner's circle in the better races. It's an exciting possibility. There is a great heritage there, a great tradition."

Lukas gave Abreu kudos for keeping the horses in good shape.

"The horses look good," Lukas said. "I think he did a super job. He worked for me for a certain length of time. I'm very fond of him, he's a good man. It didn't work out for him at this point. I think he just wants to step back and catch his breath a little bit. I would hope that once he comes back, we can find a place for him in our operation. I would take him back in a minute."

Abreu, who has worked for John Ward and Nick Zito, said he wouldn't mind coming back to work for Lukas down the road.

"I would love to be part of the team," he said.