Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sounded a warning to those running in Saturday's 135th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes hoping to derail the Funny Cide Express to the Visa Triple Crown: "That sucker is ready."Lukas, who arrived early Wednesday afternoon with his Belmont Stakes candidate, Scrimshaw, came forth with that pronouncement Thursday morning when he was asked if Tuesday's fast five-furlong workout of :57 4/5 workout by New York-bred Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, could compromise the gelding's chances to win the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes, the oldest and longest leg of the Triple Crown, on Saturday afternoon."In my experience," Lukas said, "that's bad news for the rest of us. Every time one of my horses has worked like that, they have run well. That just shows you that that sucker is ready. I would not look at that as a negative. He did it on an off surface, he did it with ease and I would say he tipped his hand.
"I think he has improved, and that work indicates his readiness." So what does Scrimshaw, owned by Robert and Beverly Lewis, have to do to win the race? "We're going to have to improve. My colleagues and I are going to have to step up and get better. He's [Funny Cide] already showed us that if we do the same thing we've been doing, we're going to get beat."One of us has to improve a lot -- or something very unusual needs to happen; something more than just a stumble like what happened to War Emblem last year. But if everything goes according to script, we'll probably have a Triple Crown winner. I'm going to try to keep that from happening. But he's on his own field [where he's unbeaten], and we know he likes the mud."About the possibility of the track being less than fast, Lukas said, "I don't think he's [trainer Barclay Tagg] over there worrying about it one way or the other, whereas some of us have to." However, Lukas said Scrimshaw shouldn't have any trouble with an off track.The four-time Belmont-winning trainer gives this year's field good grades despite its size. "We have six pretty nice horses here."
As to whether it's a better field than that for the Preakness, Lukas said, "I'd have to say yes, but I'm still having a little trouble evaluating [trainer Christophe] Clement's horse [Dynever]. He's had a bit of a soft schedule, but he is impressive. I think my horse is better and I think Bobby (Frankel's) horse will still be a factor. Wally's [trainer Wally Dollase] horse [Ten Most Wanted] didn't get a chance to run his race in the Derby for various reasons, and assuming he's OK, he should step up."
Lukas said Scrimshaw is the type of horse that gets into a race early and remains manageable. "I'll be surprised if he's not relaxed early in the race." Lukas feels having Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who has three Belmont wins to his credit, is a definite plus. Knowing the racetrack is a key, he said, especially knowing that when the horses get to the spot that is the three-eighths pole on mile tracks is only the five-eighths pole on Belmont Park's 1 ½-mile layout. Having a rider that's aware of that is a positive for the race, Lukas believes.Scrimshaw galloped a mile and a half Thursday morning in his first outing over the track since his arrival.Lukas has won the Belmont with Tabasco Cat in 1994, Thunder Gulch in 1995, Editor's Note in 1996 and Commendable in 2000.