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Rescheduled Special not so special, Lukas says


D. Wayne Lukas boasts just as impressive a record in the Pimlico Special as he does in the Preakness.

Since the race was revived in 1988, Lukas has trained two winners (Farma Way, 1991; Criminal Type, 1990) from four starters and finished third last year with Twilight Agenda.

Lukas doesn't have a starter this year, but criticized Pimlico Race Course management yesterday for its decision to run the race on the same card as the Preakness.

"What they have done is criminal," Lukas said. "Probably one of the top two worst decisions ever made in racing. They have taken a beautiful race and now just made it another race.

"Of all the ACRS [American Championship Racing Series] races, the Special had the most going for it. It was really gaining momentum and caught the best horses.

"Now, I wonder if it will ever have the same pizzazz.

"I know it was a television thing, but they [management] shouldn't have buckled under. I'd have said the hell with the [TV] exposure and kept it the Saturday before the Preakness, when everybody came in early to Baltimore and all the hype

that was generated for that race carried over and built up to a crescendo for the Preakness."

Joe De Francis, president of Pimlico, said: "Wayne is voicing the very concerns I did when the whole question of the ACRS scheduling issue came up. It's something we didn't want to do and adamantly opposed. But eventually, the shift was made for two reasons:

"One, to accommodate ABC. They pay us for the rights for the Preakness and wanted the Pimlico Special on the same telecast. Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, is one of racing's strongest supporters and is responsible for giving racing much of it's TV presence. So, that was a strong consideration.

"Secondly, not to have done it would have meant the end of the ACRS. Remember Oaklawn and Santa Anita dropped out of the series. To continue the viability of the ACRS, two races were needed from Gulfstream Park and two from Hollywood Park. Hollywood doesn't open until the end of April. The Californian was the first ACRS run at Hollywood and was carded April 24. If we had kept the Pimlico Special on May 8, instead of moving it to May 15, there would have only been two weeks between races and that's not enough time. As it turned out, we didn't get any horses from the Californian, but that's something you

don't know ahead of time.

"I agreed to the shift on a one-year trial basis only.

"Next year is an open question.

"The race this year will have less exposure from the racing media, but more exposure to the general public. By being on the Preakness telecast, which is the second-highest-rated racing show all year, more people will see the Pimlico Special than any other race, except for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness."

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