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Archive for Sunday, May 4, 2003

Trainers Baffert, Lukas surrender hold on Derby

May 4, 2003

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— The Odd Couple of the Kentucky Derby wasn't front and center this year.

Trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas, who won a combined six of the previous eight Derbies, finished out of the money Saturday.

They lost to Funny Cide, the first gelding winner since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 and the first New York-bred champion ever.

Baffert, the sport's most recognizable trainer and resident comic, won last year with War Emblem. This time, his only entry of Indian Express finished 14th in the 16-horse field. The result matched Baffert's worst in eight trips to Churchill Downs.

"It was over for me at the break," he said of the start. "I had to sit there in agony and watch the rest of it."

Not easy for someone who pulled a stunning upset last year with $20.50-1 War Emblem, who led from start to finish.

Lukas, at 67 the race's elder statesman and dignified presence, did slightly better. Ten Cents a Shine was eighth and Scrimshaw 11th. Last year, he saddled Proud Citizen to a second-place finish behind Baffert.

Still, it was Lukas' worst pair of finishes since 2000, when his trio of starters were 12th, 15th and 17th.

But he wasn't as down as Baffert about the results.

"I thought it was a well-run race and every horse had a shot at it," Lukas said back at his barn. "They were all together at the top of the stretch. You just had to lay it down and run."

Both of Lukas' horses tired late in the 11¼4-mile race. They were his record 40th and 41st starters in the 129-year-old race.

"We had a good position, maybe the distance was just too much for him at this point," said Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Scrimshaw. "At the quarter-pole, he made a move, but the final three-sixteenths he just didn't have enough to be competitive."

Scrimshaw drifted in at the start of the race and bumped Ten Most Wanted. He was in contention in the upper stretch, but ran out of gas.

He'll get another chance in the Preakness Stakes in two weeks. Lukas thought all along Scrimshaw was his best Derby horse, even though he had throat surgery to correct a blocked breathing passage in March.

Ten Cents a Shine is skipping Baltimore, but Lukas hasn't given up on the colt.

"We'll get him straightened out by the end of the summer," he said.

Baffert realized early on that he wouldn't be revisiting the winner's circle. He lowered his binoculars the first time the field passed the grandstand and shook his white-maned head as if signaling, "No, no, no."

His wife, Jill, had an ashen look on her face.

"He doesn't know how to run yet," Baffert said.

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