The D. Wayne Lukas factor almost came into play during the 27th Pimlico Special yesterday.
Winner of the previous two Specials with Criminal Type and Farma Way, Lukas made his bid this year with Twilight Agenda, a horse that had a better record than either of his previous winners.
But Twilight Agenda didn't get the best of trips and had to battle gamely to finish third, two lengths behind the winner.
"We had a bad trip," said Lukas. "We were blocked every step of the way. We were tight all the way around there and never did really get loose where Chris [McCarron] felt he could go on. I was concerned when we didn't get a clear shot at the head of the stretch. But he ran a hell of a race."
McCarron agreed that Twilight Agenda was on his game despite being "in tight most of the way. But that didn't intimidate him any. He ran a game race and really didn't have an excuse."
The second highweighted entry at 122 pounds -- Best Pal carried 126 -- Twilight Agenda was sixth going into the stretch and made a good move when finally clear.
Lukas would not blame the track.
"It was wet," he said, "but I think it was a safe, fair track. I don't think that had anything to do with it. I suppose there are going to be those who feel like they didn't handle it."
Twilight Agenda had been bothered by a bruised heel and "ran down in the right hind [leg]," Lukas said. "He went through his bandage. But this is that type of track."
* Best Pal's trainer, Gary Jones, was worried about Ibero if the track came up sloppy, but that never came into play.
The track was drying out and Ibero finished last after leading at the six-furlong mark.
"We didn't have the lead, we didn't have the mud, so that's what beat us," said trainer Ron McAnally. "That was our only chance -- if we could have gotten an easy lead in the mud."
Nevertheless, jockey Alex Solis called it "a good race for my horse. But this one was just a little too far for him."
* Boxwood, claimed last November for $8,500, raced to her fifth straight victory in the $25,000 Maryland Million Special Handicap, the preliminary attraction yesterday.
With top weight of 121 pounds, including jockey Charles Fenwick III, aboard, Boxwood set every fraction to win the 1 1/8 -mile event in 1 minute, 50 4/5 seconds.
Over Fly, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, tried to mount a challenge the stretch, but could never seriously threaten the winner. The official margin was 7 1/2 lengths.
The race was one of a series scheduled throughout the year for Maryland Million-nominated horses.
* John the Bold, a beaten favorite in the Federico Tesio Stakes the last time out, ran fourth on first-time Lasix yesterday in the Ben Franklin Stakes at Garden State.
Margaret McManus' colt was bidding for a spot in the Kentucky Derby when he finished eighth in the Tesio, then bled after the race.
The possibility of his competing in the Preakness is extremely remote.
NOTES: Double Triple wagering was canceled yesterday when two late scratches left the third race with a six-horse field. . . . Yesterday's combined handle at Pimlico and Laurel was $2,851,845, down more than $400,000 from last year. The total attendance of 23,121 was also off. . . . Desormeaux's day was not totally a non-winning one. He captured the sixth and seventh races in succession aboard Sir Sprite and Nicki. Mario Pino and Mark Johnston also had consecutive-race doubles.