In a year in which Lukas trained a former claimer, Charismatic, to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, this Classic was the crowning touch—by the trainer of the year.
Breeders' Cup Sprint
It Must Have Been the Shoes
Early on the morning of Nov. 4, two days before the Sprint, Artax stood outside Barn 16 at Gulf-stream Park getting fitted with glue-on shoes while his owner, Ernie Paragallo, watched. The colt required the special footwear because of a bruise that had been found on his right hoof on the day of his last race, the Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont, on Oct. 16. Despite the injury, Artax set the track record for six furlongs that day (1:07[3/5]). "He's the fastest horse on the planet," said Paragallo as the farrier worked.
That was a bold assertion. Though Artax's talent is unquestioned, the big bay was far from a lock on Saturday, due largely to his inconsistency this year. He'd won only three times in 14 starts and had shown a maddening tendency to break dead last from the gate.
He had found his stride this fall, however, decisively winning his last two starts. "He really blossomed," his trainer, Louis Albertrani, said last Saturday. "I'm not sure why. It got cooler, and he trained exceptionally."
In the Sprint the colt jumped from the gate, stalked a blistering pace down the backstretch, seized the lead midway through the turn and held off a driving Kona Gold to win by a half-length. In the process he equaled the six-furlong track record of 1:07[4/5], set in 1973 by his great-grandfather, Mi-. Prospector, and left little doubt as to who was the best sprinter of 1999.