Lukas' long shot
Trainer takes aim at Belmont Stakes with ScrimshawPosted: Friday June 06, 2003 4:28 PM
Updated: Friday June 06, 2003 5:09 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- D. Wayne Lukas is saddling a long shot in the Belmont Stakes. That's reason enough to take notice of Scrimshaw, even with all the hype surrounding Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid.
Four times Lukas' horses have won the grueling 1 1/2-mile race around Belmont Park's sweeping turns, and three of them were lightly regarded -- Tabasco Cat in 1994, Editor's Note in '96 and Commendable in 2000. Only Thunder Gulch, the '95 Kentucky Derby winner, was a favorite when he won.
Scrimshaw is 20-1 on the morning line for Saturday's race. He's already been beaten by Funny Cide in the Derby and Preakness. Scrimshaw was 11th in Kentucky and third in Baltimore.
"My horse is going to be better, quite a bit better in this one. I like what I see this last three weeks," Lukas said.
He thought all along Scrimshaw was his best 3-year-old, even though he had throat surgery to correct a blocked breathing passage in March.
"I'm probably where I should have been on May 3 right now," he said. "I played serious catchup. It's a tribute to the horse and maybe to me too that I'm even here."
Scrimshaw figures to be at or near the lead Saturday, with Funny Cide and Empire Maker close behind. Dynever, Ten Most Wanted and Supervisor are closers.
"It's going to become a little bit more of a rider's race because with six horses you eliminate the traffic problem," Lukas said. "They'll be spread out, I don't think anybody is going to have to go five-wide to win."
Scrimshaw was beaten 10 lengths in the Preakness, when Funny Cide easily put away the field.
"He's already showed us that if we do the same thing we've been doing, we're going to get beat," Lukas said.
"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."
Scrimshaw has never run on an off-track, and Saturday's forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain around post time at 6:38 p.m. EDT.
Funny Cide likes to run in mud, something he's done a lot of while training the last three weeks at soggy Belmont, his home track.
Lukas saw videotape of Funny Cide's final workout Tuesday when the gelding went five furlongs in a sizzling 57 4-5 seconds. "That sucker is ready," he said.
Bobby Frankel, who trains Empire Maker, believes going that fast can dull a horse's performance and take the necessary edge off.
"Every time one of my horses has worked like that, they have run well," he said. "He did it on an off-surface, he did it with ease and I would say he tipped his hand. He has improved, and that work indicates his readiness."
Funny Cide already has run two tough races two weeks apart in the Derby and Preakness, making him fit enough to recover from a speedy workout within hours.
"That shouldn't be any problem for him to bounce right back, and I bet he has," Lukas said.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who has three Belmont wins, will ride Scrimshaw.
Familiarity with the track is a key, Lukas said, because when the horses get to the spot that is the three-eighths pole on mile tracks, it's only the five-eighths pole at Belmont's 1 1/2-mile layout.
Three-year-olds are not asked to run 1 1/2 miles in any race but the Belmont.
"We never get a chance to practice it and I just don't think
you can be totally comfortable until you try it," Lukas said.
"I've won the thing four times, and all four horses the so-called
gurus said would never get that far."