Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who sent Alysheba to victories in this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is expected to send 20 horses to compete in Maryland within two weeks, Laurel executive vice president Bob Manfuso said yesterday.
And Wayne Lukas, the nation's leading trainer, said he is considering shipping about 40 horses here, possibly to compete at Pimlico's spring meet beginning in March.
Manfuso said he discussed the move with Van Berg at Hollywood Park before Saturday's Breeders' Cup races.
"It's very definite," Manfuso said. "Jack is going to send us some horses from Churchill Downs. We're not going to get his first string in that bunch, but we'll have some solid allowance horses and a few open stakes horses."
Manfuso said he is making arrangements to stable Van Berg's horses at Laurel. "We're going to try to take 12 to 14, and ease the rest in later on," Manfuso said. "We won't displace anyone who's here now; we'll just have to do some shifting, that's all. But I don't think there's any question that you have to find a way to accommodate trainers of this caliber the best you can."
Van Berg, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, ranked third with more than $6 million in purses before Saturday's Breeders' Cup races. Alysheba earned $675,000 for his second-place finish to Ferdinand in the Classic, a nose away from doubling that amount.
Van Berg has led America's trainers in victories eight times since 1968.
Lukas, though, has become the nation's dominant trainer. He has led in purse winnings each of the past four years -- setting records in 1986 with $18 million in purses and 70 stakes victories -- and this year has more than doubled the winnings of his closest competitor, Charlie Whittingham.
Lukas has 123 horses distributed over four regions of the country; because Arlington Park near Chicago will not operate next year, he is seeking an alternative circuit for his midwest stable. "Maryland seems like the logical spot," Lukas said yesterday from Santa Anita in California. "It would allow us to a follow a year-round program and gives us latitude up and down the East Coast.
"But one of the things we'll have to be careful of is that we send enough quality horses. It's costly to win on the road, so to speak. You have to hire help, get them housing and rental cars and pay to move all your equipment. It doesn't pay to go in with a partial stable."
Lukas said he would have no choice but to send high-grade stock to Maryland. "We won't be there with just ordinary horses," he said. "I don't think we have a horse who runs for less than $20,000."
Neither Lukas nor son Jeff would oversee the daily operation here; that would be assigned to one of four other assistants.
"I think it would be a tremendous boost for Maryland racing," said Frank De Francis, president of Laurel and Pimlico. "We are always looking for quality horses and the balance a stable has to offer, and obviously Wayne Lukas would offer us that kind of quality."
Laurel, which is dark today, will carry a 10-race holiday card on Thursday, beginning at 10:30 a.m.