Breeders' Cup Trainer Lukas Presses On

Tuesday, October 31st 2006, 6:27 am
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ The king of Breeders' Cup trainers is less loaded than in other years. For the first time on racing's biggest day, D. Wayne Lukas has just one contender, Pegasus Wind in the Juvenile.

Typically he is busy saddling multiple entries, but his stock has diminished through the deaths of clients and owners switching to other trainers, like his protege Todd Pletcher.

Ripping a page out of Lukas' training manual, Pletcher will enter a record 18 horses at Wednesday's draw _ including Circular Quay against his old boss in the Juvenile.

``Todd is on that roll now, and it'll eventually start to work in reverse,'' Lukas said Monday outside his barn at Churchill Downs.

``It doesn't matter how many you win, you get up there, and then they start saying, 'Well, he's got a lot (of horses), I think I'll go with some young guy that maybe will give me a little more individual attention.'''

Through the first 22 years of the Breeders' Cup, Lukas was the go-to guy.

The Hall of Famer has sent out a record 145 horses in Breeders' Cup races _ more than twice as many as anyone else _ and has the most wins (18), seconds (20) and thirds (15). He leads all trainers with $19,645,520 in Breeders' Cup earnings, more than $9 million ahead of second-place Bobby Frankel.

``Wayne has always been a leader,'' said veteran trainer Bob Holtus, who saddled Lawyer Ron to a 12th-place finish in this year's Kentucky Derby. ``He remade the game and put it on a different level. He's been a great asset to the sport. He's never caused us a black-eye.''

Holtus is on the outside looking in this week. Last month, Lawyer Ron's owners dumped him for Pletcher, who has entered the colt in the $5 million Classic.

``Owners today are nothing like owners of 30 years ago,'' he said. ``There's no loyalty.''

Three of Lukas' most powerful clients _ Eugene Klein, Bob Lewis and William T. Young _ died, depriving him of a steady stream of top horses. As many as 13 of Lukas' former assistants have opened their own stables, taking clients with them.

``With my blessing,'' he said. ``I was 100 percent for that, but I wish I had some of them back now.''

Lukas has 40 horses in training _ his lowest amount in more than 30 years. This winter for the first time, he'll abandon his longtime domain of Santa Anita in California and head to Arkansas' Oaklawn Park.

``Wayne is going to make it, no matter what,'' said former assistant Dallas Stewart, who will run two horses Saturday. ``He doesn't just have to train horses. He can do a lot of other things.''

Holtus agreed, but doesn't see Lukas leaving the track anytime soon.

``It would be hard for him to focus on anything else,'' he said. ``He can still win a (Kentucky) Derby.''

It's fitting Lukas' lone entry is in the Juvenile, which has produced his greatest success. He's won the race five times, but not since Boston Harbor in 1996 at Woodbine.

``It's very competitive,'' he said. ``You could make a case for seven, eight horses.''

Of course, Lukas is big on Pegasus Wind, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus who was bred by a partnership that includes Triple Crown-winning jockey Steve Cauthen.

He says the bay colt loves his home track, and should be at his best going 1 1-16 miles around two turns.

``Everything we have done all summer has pretty much been pointed to this one,'' Lukas said. ``We feel comfortable where we are at. I think he is doing well enough to be a factor.''

The 71-year-old Lukas, who arrives for work at 4 a.m. most days, says his enthusiasm remains high.

``My energy level is as good as it's ever been,'' he said. ``I'm into it. I'm already looking forward to next spring.''