Four Lukas Contenders Work in Mud at Belmont Park
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2001 8:59 AM
Posted: Monday, October 15, 2001 4:12 PM
Spain, who worked in the mud Monday, will seek to duplicate this win in last year's Distaff.
D. Wayne Lukas, the leading trainer in Breeders' Cup history with 16 victories, worked four horses scheduled to start in the World Thoroughbred Championships on October 27. With overnight rains, the Belmont Park track was labeled muddy with the dogs up.
"They were just maintenance works," Lukas said. "The track wasn't perfect, but I thought it was safe. We worked two real early and we worked two right after the break."
The Thoroughbred Corporation's Spain worked a half-mile under the cover of darkness and no time was recorded. Following a lengthy rest from April to August, Spain came back to run fourth in the Ballerina at Saratoga. After a third in the Turfway Park Breeders' Cup, last year's Distaff winner was entered in the Beldame against favored Flute and Exogenous. Breaking sharply and sitting just off early leaders Beautiful Pleasure and Irving's Baby, Spain was put to a heavy drive at the half-mile pole. Victor Espinoza guided the filly outside Beautiful Pleasure to take the lead while Flute came up the rail. Exogenous, only a couple lengths behind Spain, rallied in the stretch, brushing repeatedly with Spain, who yielded the show spot to Flute near the wire.
"I thought she needed the Beldame, although I thought she could have won it if she had a clean trip," Lukas said. "The last eighth of a mile wasn't perfect, but we we're pretty comfortable with it. That race should put us in a position to be competitive on October 27th."
Spain will try to become the first filly to win back-to-back runnings of the Distaff since Bayakoa did it in 1989 and 1990. From 25 Distaff starters, Lukas has four victories with seven seconds and one third. Life's Magic, Lady's Secret and Sacahuista won three consecutive Diftaff runnings for Lukas from 1985 to 1987.
Also working early was Snow Ridge, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Sprint. The three-year-old went a half-mile, but was timed for three-eighths in :37.
Snow Ridge won a Saratoga allowance race before winning at Turfway. His most recent start was a last-place fifth in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup. After dueling inside through fast fractions of :21 and :44, the colt appeared to jump a shadow at the three-sixteenths pole and raced greenly through the stretch with his head cocked toward the grandstand.
"He had a real horrendous trip at Keeneland," Lukas said of Snow Ridge, who may need some help from the Racing Secretaries and Directors Panel getting into the Sprint with only six points. "His only points for the Sprint are going to be that Kentucky Cup race."
Like Spain, Yonaguska received a long mid-year break having not raced from mid April until early October. The three-year-old colt who dead-heated for win in the 2000 Hopeful was under consideration for the Vosburgh in September, but owner Michael Tabor had another horse in the race, winner Left Bank, and Yonaguska did not run.
Clockers caught Yonaguska, working just after the renovation break, going a half-mile in :47 3/5 after an opening quarter of :24 4/5. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02 with jockey Gary Stevens aboard. Lukas usually does not use jockeys in a workout, leaving the assignment to the horse's regular exercise rider.
"Yonaguska worked terrific," Lukas said. "I'd say I just wanted to open up his lungs and stretch his legs, but when you work :47 3/5 and come home in :22 4/5, that's pretty strong. Gary was up to get familiar with him."
Yonaguska finished third in his Sprint prep, the Forest Hills. After breaking a bit slowly, the colt was near the rear of the pack and in a bit tight turning for home. Once running room was found in the stretch, Yonaguska never changed leads and was beaten 3 ½ lengths by Delaware Township.
"I felt he got something out of the Forest Hills," Lukas said. "I don't think he had the best trip and he missed changing leads. He probably got enough out of it to be competitive. He's a good fit for the Sprint. He's got the style I like. He comes in fresh and he's run well fresh. He demonstrated that by winning the Hutcheson off a layoff. With a little tightener over this racetrack, I think he'll be alright."
Fresh horses have fared well in the Sprint. Kona Gold, last year's winner, had just two races since April leading up to the race.
In both runnings of the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont, speed horses have finished one-two. Safely Kept and Dayjur ran away from the rest of the field in 1990 when a last-second miscue of jumping a shadow cost Dayjur the race. Over a muddy track in 1995, Desert Stormer led Mr. Greeley throughout and prevailed by a neck.
Lukas's record in the Sprint is not nearly as impressive as it is in other races. His lone winner from 21 starts is Gulch in 1988.
Overbrook Farm's Jump Start worked after the break as well, prepping for the Juvenile, going the half-mile in :49 after an opening quarter of :25 2/5 with exercise rider Alfredo Alurena aboard.
Jump Start, a two-year-old son of A.P. Indy, has two wins from four starts, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. He was second in the Champagne, 3 ¾ lengths behind Officer.
Breaking with the leaders, Jump Start was close to the pace down the backstretch with Officer just off his flank. At the half-mile pole, the colt dropped about six lengths off the lead and came on again in the stretch to nail pacesetting Heavyweight Champ for second a few strides before the wire.
Lukas won the Juvenile from 1986 to 1988 with Capote, Success Express and Is It True. He also captured the 1994 running with Timber Country and 1996 edition with Boston Harbor. His record in the Juvenile is 33-5-3-5.
"We're trying to have everything right on October 27," Lukas said. "Whether we are or not, we think we're making headway in that direction. They came out of their races good and they should move forward. We'll try to be competitive. We've always had pretty good luck pointing to these races."
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