Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is exuding confidence, but not to the extent that he's willing to guarantee a victory by Corporate Report in Saturday's 116th Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.
WBAL radio's Chick Lang said yesterday that Lukas had given him a Joe Namath-like assurance, but Lukas said that wasn't true.
"He might have interpreted it that way," said Lukas, smiling, "but when did the truth ever enter a good story?"
Lukas, a 55-year-old former high school basketball coach, is well on his way to becoming the leading money-winning trainer in North America for the ninth straight year. He is a good story, he appreciates a good story, and he tells a good story. Although Corporate Report is generally regarded as an outsider, Lukas, as usual, has been one of the most sought-after interviews this week.
Lukas often uses the same lines, but he always seems to draw smiles, nods and tremendous interest. Here is a sampling from yesterday:
4 * "People have opinions. Horses have the facts."
* "Corporate Report is a typical Wayne Lukas horse. We play this like basketball -- we're on offense all the time."
* "When you've got great players, you do less coaching. When you have great horses, it's the same thing: You just let 'em loose."
* "Horses beat other horses -- not a stopwatch, not rankings in a paper."
* "My horse worked spectacular [Monday, going five furlongs in 58 3/5 seconds], but he was obliviated by others that didn't work as good. The horses will decide it Saturday. I hope it never comes to when you guys [the news media] decide it."
* Since the Pimlico Special was revived in 1988, no trainer or jockey has won the Special and Preakness on consecutive weekends.
Lukas or jockey Gary Stevens could pull off the double. Stevens, who will ride Best Pal, teamed with Lukas five days ago to win the Special with Farma Way.
* Best Pal trainer Ian Jory, who lived in England before coming to the United States, on the fuss over Nick Zito and Strike the Gold getting their pictures taken with a replica of Queen Elizabeth II: "I knew she'd come see me."
* If Best Pal wins, he will become the second Derby runner-up to win the Preakness in 31 years -- and the second in two years.
Until Summer Squall won last year, the Derby runner-up had not won the Preakness since Bally Ache did it in 1960.
* The van carrying Hansel from Chicago arrived at the Pimlico stable gate at 11:15 a.m. yesterday.
The colt was quickly unloaded and put in Stall No. 27 in the Preakness barn, the Pimlico home last year for Summer Squall. Hansel, the favorite, finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
* Whadjathink was schooled yesterday on the Pimlico turf, where Preakness horses are saddled.
"He did very well," said trainer Michael Whittingham.
* Olympio will have a short blowout today or tomorrow, said trainer Ron McAnally. The colt is scheduled to work three furlongs.