Haskin's Belmont Report: The D. Wayne Reign
Remember when D. Wayne Lukas won an amazing six Triple Crown races in a row and seven of eight from 1994 to 1996? Remember when Lukas sent out one of the most improbable Belmont Stakes winners ever in Commendable? Well, before you dismiss Lukas’ pair of longshots this year, remember who you’re dealing with.
Lukas’s two horses, Flying Private and Luv Gov, have a combined lifetime record of two wins in 23 starts, and both obviously are eligible for a nonwinners of one allowance race. So, why does Lukas, always the eternal optimist, have that same Cheshire cat grin this year he did when he brought Commendable here?
First off, because he’s
The new Wayne Lukas now enjoys people more and being a good will ambassador for racing. At Oaklawn Park, every time he’d win a race and headed to the winner’s circle, he would choose a child, usually around 6 years olds, and take him or her into the winner’s circle to be part of the celebration. He would assure the parents he would take good care of their child. He then would arrange for the track photographer to make up eight prints of the winner’s circle photo for the parents to pick up later in the afternoon. After a while, families would be lined up near the winner’s circle after a Lukas victory, hoping he would choose their child.
So, here is Lukas back at
If you don’t think Lukas is capable of winning or at least having a say in the Belmont with a horse who is 1-for-12 and a horse who is 1-for-11 and together have finished out of the money 13 times, don’t forget that Commendable was 1-for-7, finishing out of the money six times in a row, and coming off a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 26 lengths. Up to that point, no horse had ever run in the Kentucky Derby and then won the
Flying Private has been the proverbial hard-luck horse who rarely has seen a clean trip in his career. Even in his fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, he displaced, and was only beaten six lengths.
In the Preakness, he was moving stride for stride with Mine That Bird. Both horses went for the same hole that wasn’t really there in the first place. Mine That Bird was able to get through when Pioneerof the Nile drifted out, but Alan Garcia on Flying Private had to alter course to inside after steadying. With a big, long-striding horse like Flying Private, the last thing you want is to have to stop riding the horse and then re-start the engine. It took a while for Flying Private to get back in gear and he closed steadily to finish fourth, beaten only four lengths.
As for Luv Gov, His maiden victory on Derby Day was spectacular following three seconds, including one to Summer Bird. Although he finished eighth in the Preakness after running 11th the whole race, he didn’t run that badly, coming off a maiden race. He had to alter course several times in the stretch, being forced wider each time. He has to make up 7 3/4 lengths on Mine That Bird, and although he might not be ready to do that, there is no reason to think he won’t show big improvement with a clean trip and having the experience of the Preakness behind him.
As mentioned, both horses have looked great in the mornings, and Luv Gov was full of himself Tuesday, trying to rear a couple of times before being allowed to break off into his gallop.
So, with apologies to those not familiar with the Spanish American War, when it comes time to look for some big-price horses to throw in your exotics, “Remember the
Sounds from the
Calvin Borel on his guarantee that Mine That Bird will win the
Borel,when asked if the distance had been a mile and a half, would Mine That Bird have caught Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness? “I have no comment.”
Kiaran McLaughlin on why he’s so confident in Charitable Man’s chances: “I’ve been coming across as cocky, but I’m not cocky at all. I’m just saying he’s been doing great, he’s two-for-two over the track, and he’s three-for-three on dirt. Do I need to keep going?”
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