Team Lukas upbeat over Santa Anita meet

Dec 26, 2000 10:39 AM

Horse players seeking to cash a bet during Santa Anita’s marathon 83-day winter/spring run could do well to favor horses that have been training over the Arcadia surface. So says Randy Bradshaw, who directs the Southern California division of racing’s all-time leading money-winning trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

"The two tracks are completely different," says Bradshaw, who is based at Santa Anita year-round. "Santa Anita’s surface varies from day to day, but generally, horses get a better hold of it than they do Hollywood Park’s. Santa Anita is not quite as sandy as Hollywood and it doesn’t have the sports grids. Since I’ve been at Santa Anita, they’ve kept the track in good shape. But it’s a completely different racetrack from Hollywood.

"We’ve had some horses that have run well at Hollywood (Lukas had one win, six seconds and four thirds from 22 starters at the recent meet), but we should do better at Santa Anita, where our horses train. Horses that have run at Hollywood are a bit fitter, because the track is loose and running over it gets horses fitter. I think horses coming from Hollywood to Santa Anita will be fine, but I’d rather have them train at Santa Anita."

Critics might term 2000 an off year for Lukas, racing’s all-time leading trainer in money earned with well over $200 million. But the 65-year-old Hall of Famer and four-time Eclipse Award winner still ranks second to Bob Baffert this year with more than $10.3 million.

Bradshaw is confident Team Lukas can recapture a taste of its glory days at Santa Anita’s premier meeting.

"We’ve got Surfside (leading candidate for 3-year-old filly honors) and Spain (upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff) ready to run, and a bunch of good 2-year-olds that are about to turn three," Bradshaw said. "We should have a good meet. We had lots of seconds and thirds at Hollywood, so those horses should be fit to run at Santa Anita.

"In fact, Wayne and I looked at the (Santa Anita condition) book and felt we had 15 real live horses to run the first two weeks. We figured if we can win six of those races, we’ll be in good shape. We’re optimistic."

And with good reason.

"We’ve got an Unbridled colt we like named Daring Bid," Bradshaw said. Padua Stable paid $1.45 million for the youngster, whose dam is Whiffling. "I like a horse called Orientate, who was second to Millennium Wind (who was a game second to Hollywood Futurity winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Point Given). We’ve got four or five 2-year-olds that are top quality. One is a Storm Cat named Gold Trader who went :59 4/5 in his first five furlong workout (at Santa Anita). He won earlier at Churchill Downs."

On the comeback trail is Exchange Rate, who fractured a bone in his ankle after finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. He recently worked a half-mile in :49 2/5.

Bradshaw, who celebrates his 50th birthday on Dec. 28, has been friend, confidant and dedicated employee to the fastidious Lukas for more than a decade. After several years of training successfully on his own, Bradshaw suppressed any hint of an ego he might have and rejoined Lukas as his top lieutenant three years ago.

"There’s a lot less stress in my life this way," the Twiggy-thin Bradshaw said. "I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day operation of things. I just have to train horses and that’s what I enjoy doing. It makes my job a lot better. We’ve been together a long time, considering the eight years I worked for Wayne before, so it’s not anything new.

"Our stable wasn’t as strong this year as it was years ago, when we were winning 92 stakes (a national record set in 1987). We thought we had a bad year, but we’re still second in money won. So if we can improve a little next year, we might be OK."

The Homestretch

When The Heebster’s name appeared in the Hollywood Park entries for the first time during the final week of the meet, it elicited wry snickers and raised eyebrows on press box row. "The Heebster" is considered by some to be a slang and derogatory expression for "Hebrew," and possibly offensive to members of the Jewish faith. But Bob Hess Jr., who trains the 2-year-old California-bred filly, says the horse is named for one of his owner’s wives and in no way is intended as a racial slur. "I didn’t even think about it being offensive," says Hess, a 35-year-old Stanford graduate. "Greg Wood (one of the filly’s owners) sent the name in (to The Jockey Club). The horse is named for Greg’s wife. I don’t know what country she’s from, but it’s foreign, and her name is Heba (HEE-bah). After the Woods won a race with a horse of theirs named Bright Victory, Heba’s friends were calling her ”˜The Heebster, The Heebster, The Heebster.’ I thought it was a play on her name, but it’s actually her nickname, like you would be called The Goldster. There was never any ill intentions at all when the horse was named. The Heebster is just Heba’s nickname. We didn’t have to submit an explanation to The Jockey Club when we sent in the name, but honestly, in retrospect, I’m surprised they didn’t question it." Had racing’s august body done so, it wouldn’t have been a shock. A few years ago, The Jockey Club ordered owners of a horse called Heezaputz to change that name. But monikers like Cunning Stunt and Isitingood, to name but two, have slipped through the cracks . . . Cliff Sise Jr. says the best young horse in his barn is an unraced Fly So Free colt named Free Thoughts. "Some of my 2-year-olds have had minor setbacks, so they’re a little behind, but I hope to have this one ready in a month or so," said the trainer, who is also high on a Distant View colt and a Dynaformer filly.