A Crown, like great-grandpa?

Charismatic possesses Secretariat's genes and shot at greatness

May 17, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

D. Wayne Lukas rubbed his hands along the glistening neck of the chestnut colt Charismatic. Yesterday, the morning after Charismatic won the Preakness, Lukas was pointing out the colt's similarities to Secretariat.

The revered Secretariat is Charismatic's great-grandsire on his male side. Charismatic also boasts strong Secretariat influences on his female side.

Before Lukas could get too far into the comparison, he and his audience, a small group of reporters, enjoyed a good laugh. Here they were at the Pimlico stakes barn comparing Charismatic to Secretariat when three months ago Lukas couldn't even dump the horse in a claiming race (a race in which all entrants are for sale for a set price).

Now, after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Charismatic is one victory away from becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner. He will attempt the sweep June 5 in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

"It's perilous ground at best," Lukas said. "You can't go there confident you're just going to beat these horses. We're not talking about Secretariat here."

Even though he was just talking about Secretariat here, he was not saying that Charismatic, despite his genes, is the second coming.

"I'm going to be guardedly optimistic," Lukas said. "I'll get him over there the best I can. But we're not sticking our chest out saying, `Come on, try us.'

"I've got some concerns. You always get the fresh one coming at you in the Belmont."

The Belmont will feature non-Preakness horses (including possibly Best of Luck, Comeonmom, Lemon Drop Kid, The Groom Is Red and Vision and Verse) as well as graduates of the Preakness.

They will challenge the so-far indefatigable Charismatic, who has raced every two weeks since April 3. That's four races in six weeks.

"I know the story line already," Lukas said. "Two weeks, two weeks, two weeks. Can he win with three?"

Charismatic will be flown today to Churchill Downs and remain there until the Wednesday before the Belmont, when he'll be loaded onto a plane for New York.

Lukas said he will allow Charismatic one light week before resuming serious training. The three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont should help the colt regain his strength, Lukas said.

For Lukas, the Belmont is a chance to add another line to his impressive resume. Although he has won 12 Triple Crown races, he has never won the Triple Crown.

This summer, the 63-year-old trainer will be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame.

Menifee, second in the Derby and Preakness, may be the main threat to Lukas' Triple Crown dream. His trainer, Elliott Walden, said Menifee will pursue Charismatic once more, just as his Victory Gallop pursued Real Quiet.

"I just hope the ending's the same," Walden said.

After finishing second to Real Quiet in last year's Derby and Preakness, Victory Gallop finally prevailed in the Belmont. The year before, Silver Charm failed in his Triple Crown attempt, narrowly losing the Belmont after winning the Derby and Preakness.

So Charismatic is the third horse in three years to depart Pimlico with a chance to win the Triple Crown. Sixteen horses have captured the first two jewels but then lost or didn't start in the third.

Charismatic may be one of the more unlikely contenders for racing's most coveted prize. He has won his past three races, but of his first 13 he won only two. In February, Lukas ran him in a Santa Anita Park claiming race. Another trainer could have purchased the horse for $62,500. No one did.

"It's hard to picture him as a Triple Crown winner," Walden said. "But that horse right now is in a zone."

Where they're headed

Plans for the 13 Preakness horses:

Horse ------------------ Preakness finish ---------- Next race destination

Charismatic ---------- 1st ----- ----- ----- ----- ------- Belmont Stakes

Menifee ---------------- 2nd ---- ----- ----- ---- ------- Belmont Stakes

Badge ------------------ 3rd ---- ------ ----- ---- ------- Belmont Stakes

Stephen Got Even -- 4th ---------- ------ ---- ------- Belmont Stakes

Patience Game ------ 5th ----------- ---- ----- ------- Belmont Stakes (possible)

Adonis ----------- ------- 6th ---------- ----- ------- ----- Belmont Stakes

Cat Thief -------- ------- 7th ---------- ----- ------- ----- Jim Dandy or Swaps Stakes

Kimberlite Pipe ------- 8th ---------- ----- ------ ------ Belmont Stakes (possible)

Valhol ----------- -------- 9th ---------- ------ ------ ----- Texas

Vicar ------------- -------- 10th -------- ------ ------ ------ time off

Torrid Sand --- -------- 11th --------- ----- ------- ----- Kentucky

Worldly Manner ------ 12th -------- ------ ------- ----- undecided

Excellent Meeting ---- DNF ------- ------- ----- ----- Kentucky

Pub Date: 5/17/99

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