Some trainers only modestly would tout the abilities of a horse after a ninth-place finish at the Kentucky Derby.
But not D. Wayne Lukas.
For one week, Lukas brashly campaigned for Corporate Report. He said the Derby was merely a prep race, and that his horse was poised to win the Preakness. Even as he was saddling Corporate Report, preparing to run on a cool, overcast spring afternoon, Lukas remained confident.
"I went out there thinking that we would win it," Lukas said.
Corporate Report didn't win yesterday's 116th Preakness, but Lukas' prediction wasn't so outrageous, after all. In his sixth career start, Corporate Report finished second behind Hansel, despite a stumble that forced a midrace change of tactics.
"Seasoning beat us, that's all," Lukas said. "This horse ran a heck of a race. We lost to a horse that wasn't even supposed to be here. It's funny how fate beats you. If Hansel doesn't come, we win."
The chestnut colt ran into problems at the start. Two strides out of the gate, the horse stumbled, forcing jockey Pat Day to tighten his grip on the reins.
"That got us in trouble right away," Day said. "I pulled on the reins, and he ran. We were second best. I can't complain."
At least Corporate Report was healthy enough to run. Lukas feared the worst after he saw the stumble.
"With something like that, usually you have a foot turn into filet and the shoe might be flopping off," Lukas said. "But he looked good going by the stands for the first time."
Day normally enjoys riding in the pack, before making a well-timed move for the front. But, in this race, he was forced to ride in front.
"Your plans have to change, sometimes," Lukas said. "It's kind of like starting in a zone defense in basketball and someone hits four three-pointers. Time to adjust. I told Pat that if we inherit the lead, just milk it. Ideally, we would have liked to have been sitting second."
Corporate Report held a lead for three-quarters of a mile, but gave way to Hansel's powerful move to the front entering the final turn. Despite turning its head after being passed, Corporate Report displayed his ability to rebound.
You could have stopped the film at the turn and said, "This horse will be last," Lukas said. "But he wouldn't give up. He fought hard."
The performance was good enough for Lukas to commit Corporate Report to the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. As he stood outside the stakes barn at Pimlico, Lukas talked on about the horse's frisky youth and untapped character. Under the circumstances, second place was good enough. But at the Belmont, Lukas will be looking for a winner.
"If we don't go to Belmont, why even get up in the morning?" Lukas said. "We're in this game. This horse made great strides. We're improving all the time."