Lukas has horses to rebound in 2003

Dec 31, 2002 3:57 AM

The resume of D. Wayne Lukas in Hollywood Park’s media guide is more than four pages, and growing.

He has 13 Triple Crown victories, sharing the lead with legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. He is the most successful trainer in Breeders’ Cup history with 17 victories. He was the nation’s leading trainer in money won for 14 of 18 years during a span in the last two decades. He has saddled winners of more than 500 graded stakes. He is racing’s all-time leading money-earning trainer, approaching $300 million. He set a Joe DiMaggio-type national record with 92 stakes wins in 1987, and he holds the record of $17,842,358 for purse money won in one year, set in 1988.

But what have you done for me lately?

Despite winning the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Orientate, a cinch to win the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter, Lukas had what for him might be considered an "off" year. He barely cracked the top 10 nationally in earnings with under $6 million, and aside from Orientate, fellow sprinter Snow Ridge, and Spain, who retired as the all-time leader in North American earnings for a filly or mare, Lukas did not rule the 2-year-old and 3-year-old divisions, as he has in the past.

All that could change as the new year dawns. The 66-year-old Hall of Fame trainer has an expensive and aristocratic array of young horses preparing to go on stage. Some are waiting in the wings. Others have already overcome their stage fright with debuts that have earned glowing reviews. But don’t expect them to be an overnight success.

"We’re optimistic about ”˜em," Lukas said at Santa Anita, where many of his bumper crop of bluebloods are stabled. "We didn’t do anything (with them) this summer by design. Most of those we like most have two-turn potential. We’re just now getting into a good, strong pattern with them, and throughout the Santa Anita meet, going into February, we’ll try to get them started."

Lukas, a stickler for neatness and organization, referred to a white paper on the desk in his tack room. On it were names of young horses with impeccable bloodlines: progeny of 1994 2-year-old filly champion Flanders; 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy; 1995 3-year-old filly champion Serena’s Song; Mr. Prospector, a prolific stakes sire before his recent death; and Storm Cat, whose juvenile runners in 2002 were runaway leaders in money earned at nearly $2 million.

"We’ve got some really well-bred horses that should surface and do pretty well," said Lukas, who then proceeded with a litany of their potential.

"We’ve got Flanders’ baby, by A.P. Indy; his name is Big Country. We’ve got an A.P. Indy out of Flanders’ mother (Starlet Storm), which is the same pedigree (as Big Country), of course, and that’s Capital Spending. We like him.

"Bob and Beverly Lewis (owners of Charismatic, who Lukas trained to win the 1999 Kentucky Derby and gain Horse of the Year honors) have a couple of really nice prospects, a colt called Gross Margin, and a Mr. Prospector colt called Involvement. We like both of them a lot. Another obvious one is Arbitrate, a Serena’s Song’s baby by Deputy Minister.

"Scrimshaw has already won twice (on opening day, the $550,000 son of Gulch upset the touted maiden winner Ghostzapper and is being pointed to the Jan. 18 Santa Catalina Stakes). Another we like is owned by Overbrook (Farm, whose Grindstone Lukas trained to defeat Cavonnier by a nose in the 1996 Derby). He’s Ozzie Cat, a Storm Cat. So we’ve got some very solid horses. We backed off a little bit in 2002 because most of our young horses were two-turn types, but we’re ready to go now."

THE HOMESTRETCH: Laffit Pincay Jr. is 56, going on 10,000. The Hall of Fame rider, world’s winningest jockey with 9,479 victories, celebrated his 56th birthday on Dec. 29, and said he thinks reaching 10,000 career victories "will be pretty easy." Since breaking Bill Shoemaker’s record of 8,833 on Dec. 10, 1999, a span of just over three years, Pincay has won 645 races . . . Through Dec. 28, Bobby Frankel was $133,419 short of breaking Lukas’ record of $17,842,358 for purse money won in one year, set in 1988. The publicity generated by Frankel’s pursuit was fine with Lukas, although he didn’t feel the brash Brooklyn native was a lock to set a new standard. "Anytime you get publicity in racing, it’s good, because we’re usually on the back page," Lukas said. "I don’t think he’s a cinch, though. He’s going to have to run the table pretty much. The one record I think will stand forever is our 92 stakes. I don’t think anybody’s going to break that for a while." . . . Agent Nick Cosato, on the resurgence of Pat Valenzuela: "I don’t know if he achieved more than I thought he would (during his comeback in 2002), because with him, the sky’s the limit. He’s come back time and time again and done well. I had him nine years and this is the third time, and although he’s 40, I can honestly say this is the best he’s ever ridden." P.Val’s New Year’s resolution?: "Win more races."