Lukas Looks to Make History in Debutante

Edited from Churchill Downs notes

The Debutante Stakes (gr. III) has been run at Churchill Downs for more than a century. A win in Friday's 103rd renewal by D. Wayne Lukas would put the Hall of Fame trainer in very exclusive territory. Lukas will be shooting that day for an unprecedented fifth victory in the race as he saddles a pair of young stars in the 5 1/2-furlong event for 2-year-old fillies.

His two entrants are Robert and Beverly Lewis' Renaissance Lady and Thomas Van Meter II's Be Gentle. A win by either would allow Lukas to break a tie with Doug Davis for most wins in a race that dates back to 1895.

Renaissance Lady, an unusually precocious daughter of A.P. Indy is a last second entry into the Debutante picture. She finished second in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont in her most recent start and her pedigree would indicate that she will improve as the distances in the juvenile races get longer.

"I entered her in Chicago in an allowance race and it didn't go, so we'll give her an opportunity in the Debutante," Lukas said. "There'll be a lot of speed in the race and she's a closer, so maybe it will set up for her."

The Lewises' filly scored an improbable victory in her April 23 debut at Keeneland in which she broke poorly but rebounded to win by two lengths, a move rarely seen over the Lexington track's 4 1/2-furlong Headley course. She then rallied to finish second in the five-furlong Fashion, beaten two lengths by Rodeo Licious.

"We're finding out that shipping from here to New York is not working out very well," Lukas said. "That deep, tiring track has been really dry and deep and has been compromising these horses. I've noticed all of the shippers, including (Steve) Asmussen's and everybody else from Maryland didn't fare well over the weekend. I look for her to bounce back on this racetrack. I think she'll do better."

Lukas was referring to trainer Steve Asmussen's Best To Be King, a Churchill Downs-based colt who finished fifth as the favorite in last Saturday's Tremont (gr. III) at Belmont Park. Be Gentle has not left the premises during the Churchill Downs Spring Meet. The daughter of young sire Tale of the Cat romped to an 8 1/2-length victory in her only start on May 11.

Lukas scored his previous Debutante wins with Burnished Bright (1986), Icy Folly (1989), Golden Attraction (1995), and Love Lock (1997).

The field for the $100,000 Debutante Stakes, from the rail out:

Post, horse, jockey (weight), morning line odds
1--Cryptos' Best, Jon Court(117), 15-1
2--Sweet Jo Jo, Lonnie Meche, (117), 3-1
3--Thesmellofhoney, Dean Butler (115), 15-1
4--Go Grace Go, John McKee (117), 30-1
5--Be Gentle, Cornelio Velasquez (117), 5-2
6--In Rome, Rafael Bejarano (115), 12-1
7--Lady's Room, Frank Lovato Jr. (117), 6-1
8--Secret Romance, Robby Albarado (117), 6-1
9--Renaissance Lady, Pat Day (117), 3-1