Lukas can only hope Spiral turns his way

Buckle Down Ben appears to be famed trainer's last hope for Derby winner

Horse Racing

March 24, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Now that Monarchos and Point Given have established that they're the best, the rest will jostle for position along the road to the Kentucky Derby.

Nine promising 3-year-olds will compete in the $600,000 Spiral Stakes today at Turfway Park in Kentucky. The field, with only three stakes winners, is notable more for who is out than for who is in.

John Ward Jr., who trains Monarchos and Hero's Tribute, was set to send out Holiday Thunder in the Spiral. At the beginning of the year, the son of Thunder Gulch was Ward's top Derby prospect.

But the Kentucky-based horseman withdrew Holiday Thunder this week because of a foot bruise. It isn't serious, Ward said, and now he plans on pointing Holiday Thunder toward the Preakness.

With Holiday Thunder out of the Spiral, the spotlight focuses on a human. D. Wayne Lukas, the czar of Derby trainers, may be down to his last serious Derby contender, Buckle Down Ben.

The Spiral will be the first race for Buckle Down Ben under Lukas' tutelage. Michael Tabor bought the son of Devil His Due last month from a partnership that included East Coast trainer Steve Klesaris, who saddled Buckle Down Ben for his victory last fall in the Laurel Futurity.

Lukas has saddled horses in the past 20 Derbies, and he isn't expected to sit this one out. But Scorpion (fifth in the Gotham Stakes), Turnberry Isle (10th in the Florida Derby) and High Cascade (11th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes) ran dismally in their last races. And Gold Trader, a highly regarded son of Storm Cat, was fatally injured last weekend in the San Felipe Stakes.

The Spiral Stakes will be televised on ESPN2 during a one-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m. Post time will be 4:40.

The day's most intriguing race involving a leading Derby prospect is not on network television. The $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby is not part of the simulcast package of Dubai races being shown this morning at American tracks and betting centers, including those in Maryland.

Street Cry, Godolphin Racing's top prospect for the American classics, will compete in the UAE Derby against 15 other horses, including older stakes winners. Street Cry finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall.

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