Fire In Ice melts foes for absentee Lukas

LAUREL — LAUREL -- Fire In Ice's victory in the $54,325 Inner Harbor Stakes at Laurel Race Course yesterday served as another reminder of just how far-flung the stable of trainer D. Wayne Lukas has become.

Lukas wasn't present to saddle Fire In Ice. Neither was his top New York assistant, Kiaran McLaughlin, who usually does the honors when Lukas has a horse in an East Coast stakes.


Instead, it was 23-year-old Todd Pletcher -- the assistant to the assistant -- who traveled from New York to saddle the 2-year-old colt. Pletcher went solo in accepting the winner's trophy afterward.

Lukas, whose 1990 stable earnings of $14 million-plus make him the nation's leading trainer for the eighth straight year, maintains several hundred horses at tracks throughout the country. Although his stable wasn't able to surpass the record of more than $17.8 million it earned in 1988, Lukas is a heavy favorite to get his first Horse of the Year award with Criminal Type.


"Kiaran was in New York with a horse today," said Pletcher. "Plus we had one in at Philadelphia Park, so we were pretty much all over the place today."

Fire In Ice stayed in one place in the 1 1/8-mile Inner Harbor -- in front. With Marco Castaneda rating him through moderate fractions, the colt turned back Tammany at the half-mile pole, Fortunate Lance in the early stretch, and finally, Pretty Amusing in the final furlong.

"[Castaneda] had a lot of horse left when I went up to him," said Tammany's rider, Rick Wilson.

Said Donnie Miller, who rode Fortunate Lance: "It's unfortunate, but I had to keep my horse from going in front to keep his mind on his business. I had to clock, clock, clock. That let the winner have things all his own way."

Fire In Ice, owned by Howard Kaskel, was a $100,000 yearling purchase. In his previous two starts, the colt was badly beaten in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Nashua Stakes. His previous four starts had come in graded stakes; the Inner Harbor is not graded.

With a $32,595 payday, the winner increased his total earnings to $165,095. He returned $5.80 after running the distance in 1 minute, 52 3/5 seconds over a good track.

Fire In Ice and Fortunate Lance were co-favorites at $1.90-1, although there was $62 more bet to win ($9,116-$9,054) on Fire In Ice.