`Special' makes Lukas early bird

Cat Thief's role spurs trainer to jump gun on bringing hopefuls here

Pimlico notebook

May 14, 2000|By Tom Keyser and Kent Baker | Tom Keyser and Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

D. Wayne Lukas, the modern guru of Triple Crown races, has trained 25 horses for 17 Preaknesses since 1980, but this is the first time he has arrived so early for the race.

Lukas and his seven stakes horses, including High Yield, arrived Thursday at Pimlico - nine days before the Preakness. For the other Preaknesses in which Lukas participated, he flew his horses in the Wednesday before the race.

He changed routine this year because of Cat Thief, who raced yesterday in the Pimlico Special. As long as Cat Thief had to be here last week, Lukas decided he might as well send his other horses."We'll see how it works out," Lukas said. "Maybe I'll like it."

Lukas said that after the Kentucky Derby he likes to remain at Churchill Downs until the last minute because of the serenity of its backstretch. At Pimlico, he said, with all the Preakness horses stabled in one barn and the media huddled in one mass, the situation becomes "a zoo" and possible distraction for the horses - not to mention Lukas."They've settled in even better than I'd hoped," Lukas said of his stakes contingent at Pimlico. "High Yield's going great. His energy level is high."But I'm not going to brag on him. He let me down so badly in the Derby."

Lukas speculated that High Yield's hard-fought victory in the Blue Grass Stakes three weeks before might have taken its toll.

`Grown-up' Red Bullet

Red Bullet, the Wood Memorial runner-up, breezed five furlongs yesterday at Pimlico in a sharp 584/5 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1 minute, 12 seconds. His trainer, Joe Orseno, was delighted with the work."He seemed to handle the track great," Orseno said of the Unbridled colt. "He galloped out just as I'd wanted. He's hardly blowing. He's pretty fit. He's really grown up and matured."

Orseno said it was the colt's owner, Frank Stronach, who decided to skip the Derby and wait for the Preakness. Red Bullet will likely be the bettors' second choice behind the heavy favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus, the Derby winner."I'd like to take credit for the decision," Orseno said. "But Mr. Stronach made the call, and I'm convinced it was the right thing to do."

Another shot for `Hope'

Hal's Hope, the other Preakness horse in Baltimore, jogged three quarters of a mile and galloped a mile yesterday at Pimlico. He faded to 16th in the Derby after setting sizzling fractions for a mile."This last race, the fractions were such that there's no way he could go a mile and a quarter," said Harold J. Rose, breeder, trainer and owner of the colt. "Roger [Velez, the jockey] didn't persevere with him the last quarter-mile. He could have finished closer, but he would have had to use up the horse."

Hal's Hope has come down with a skin rash, which Rose called "superficial and not a problem." He said the colt might have gotten it from bad feed the last couple of days at Churchill Downs.

Drysdale visiting

Fusaichi Pegasus walked under the shedrow yesterday at Churchill Downs after heavy rains drenched the track overnight and during morning training hours.

Neil Drysdale, trainer of the Derby winner, has planned a visit to Pimlico today to check out stabling accommodations, the saddling area and racing surface. He plans on flying his colt to Baltimore, he said.

Max's Pal wins Hirsch

Max's Pal, steered to the rail by Rick Wilson for the stretch drive, rallied strongly to overtake favored Ultimate Warrior by a neck to win yesterday's secondary feature, the $75,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes over six furlongs."He's a game thing," said Wilson, who was riding his third winner on the program. "When I asked him, he ran. That's what you want in these horses. If you can ask them and they know about it, you've got a good thing."

Although he finished seventh in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in his previous outing, Max's Pal was racing that day against the likes of Red Bullet and Aptitude, two Triple Crown runners.

And trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said the mile distance of that race "might be a little outside his realm. At the eighth pole he was right there with those horses. I thought he ran great that day."

With Pat Day aboard, Ultimate Warrior seemed likely to stave off the late-comers after seizing the lead shortly after the start and maintaining it. He seemed headed for the win until Max's Pal - a $125,000 purchase at the Ocala (Fla.) sales - took the inside route home."Ben said that if two of them get out there and hook up [Lovesme-lovemenot challenged Ultimate Warrior on the front], let them go," said Wilson, who was on Max's Pal for the first time. That's what happened. I just laid off them and Ben told me he'd give me what he had after that."

Word on Wheelaway

A firm decision is expected tomorrow on Wheelaway, whose connections are leaning heavily toward running in the Preakness.

He is slated to work out at Belmont Park tomorrow morning, and if an evaluation is positive, he will be vanned to Pimlico on Wednesday.

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