Trainer Lukas cracks the one-liners
HALLANDALE, Fla. -- D. Wayne Lukas, as usual, has been in rare form this week.
"I love the big events," he said. "This year's Breeders' Cup card is as good as last year's, and there might even be more depth and flavor with so many European horses running. They are taking a hell of a shot and it's hard to figure out how they factor in. I can't even pronounce their names."
Lukas, the Breeders' Cup winningest trainer, has four starters -- Salt Lake (Sprint), Lite Light (Distaff), Mountain Cat (Juvenile) and Twilight Agenda (Classic).
Lukas made these observations:
* On Pat Eddery's chances in the Sprint with Elbio, a slow-breaking European horse starting from the No. 1 post position: "Eddery is going to have so much sand on him, we can plant corn on him when he's done."
* On Francois Boutin's refusal to talk to the press this week at the Breeders' Cup. Boutin is the trainer of Arazi, the so-called super horse that flopped in the Kentucky Derby and is trying to make a comeback in the Breeders' Cup Mile: "I don't blame Boutin," Lukas said. "First, before the Derby, you guys [the press] make him out to be the Governor of Kentucky. Then the next day, you've got him collecting garbage."
* On the 2-year-olds in the Juvenile: "My horse [Mountain Cat] is a good tough horse. A blue-collar worker. He knows where the finish line is.
"Sea Hero impressed me in the Champagne, but that was on an off-track. Rain [tomorrow] will move him up.
"Gilded Time [unbeaten in three starts] has a lot of quality. But he is untested around two turns and in major competition. He is the best managed horse in the race. No, I take that back. My horse is. After all, I've made over $1 million with Mountain Cat [more than any other 2-year-old in history].
"I thought the morning line in the Juvenile is a little shaky. [River Special, six-length winner of the Norfolk Stakes in his last start was favored over Mountain Cat.] That was the worst Norfolk Stakes field in 10 years."
* On favored Selkirk's chances in the Breeders' Cup Mile: "He is such a big horse. He's going to lope right into and over the outside fence."
* On winning a $1 million bonus with Mountain Cat by winning four stakes at four Kentucky tracks (Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Ellis Park and Turfway Park): "The tracks paid a $25,000 insurance premium [to guarantee the bonus]. That means the insurance company lost nearly $1 million. I don't think the tracks will get them to do that again."
* On picking Breeders' Cup winners: "This is exactly like other athletics. It is usually the best horses that rise to the occasion in a championship event like this."
Allen Paulson is riding Pat Valenzuela on all of his four Breeders' Cup entrants (Eliza, Fowda, Arazi and Fraise). He told Valenzuela that he'd buy him a new Rolls Royce if he won all four races.
"That's what happens when you work for a good man," Valenzuela said. "You get good benefits."
Paulson's new stable trainer is 30-year-old Alex Hassinger, nephew of John Gaines, founder of the Breeders' Cup.
Hassinger was the assistant to Paulson's former trainer, Dicky Lundy, who was fired in early July.
Hassinger said Paulson asked him to fill in for Lundy and run the 80-horse outfit until he found a new head trainer.
A couple of days went by and Hassinger said he heard nothing from Paulson.
"When I finally asked him over the phone who he was going to hire, he said 'No one. I'm going to let you run the show.' I was in a state of shock. I had no indication he was going to do that."
Since then, Hassinger has won important stakes races with Eliza, a Paulson 2-year-old filly, and upset Pasaena in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland with Fowda.
Maryland jockey Gregg McCarron will once again be a commentator for the NBC telecast of the Breeders' Cup show. . . . Tonight's Breeders' Cup Gala is not a sellout. Breeders' Cup officials are still hustling tickets for the event at $500 per person. Featured entertainers are Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. "With that lineup, I'm surprised they sold any," one reporter said.