BALTIMORE, MAY 21 -- Tabasco Cat revived the career of trainer Wayne Lukas today, five months after he almost killed Lukas's son.
The feisty chestnut colt outfinished 5-2 favorite Go for Gin in a riveting stretch drive to win the $688,800 Preakness Stakes by three-quarters of a length before a sun-washed crowd of 86,343 at Pimlico Race Course. By so doing, he provided Lukas and jockey Pat Day with their third Preakness victories and became the first horse to win the race from post position 1 since Bally Ache in 1960.
Concern, owned by Robert Meyerhoff of Phoenix, Md., rallied from last place in the center of the track to take third by a half-length over Kandaly. Neither was a threat to the first two finishers, who used the stretch for a private confrontation.
In a span of 1 minute 56 2/5 seconds over 1 3/16 miles, Tabasco Cat ended Go for Gin's quest to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred-racing history and earned $447,720 for owners William T. Young and David Reynolds. A Kentucky-bred with ties to Maryland, Tabasco Cat had finished sixth in Go for Gin's mud-splashed Kentucky Derby victory two weeks earlier.
On a dry, fast track today, Tabasco Cat somewhat eased Lukas's grisly memories of last year's Preakness and of an incident in California last December. Typically aggressive and excitable, he got loose in the Santa Anita Park stable area and trampled Lukas's son, assistant trainer Jeff Lukas.
Jeff Lukas, 36, lay in a coma for about a month before regaining consciousness and now is undergoing rehabilitation. He watched today's race on television from his home in Glendora, Calif., as he did the Derby.
"He's a special guy," Lukas said. "My thoughts were with him as they were going around there."
Lukas did not embellish on the 1993 Preakness, in which Union City broke a foreleg on the Pimlico backstretch and was given a lethal injection a short time later when the injuries were considered inoperable.
"We do our best every day," he said.
The mishap seemed to parallel Lukas's fall from the top of his profession. The all-time purse-winning trainer, he ranked 10th nationally in 1993 after leading every year from 1983 through 1991.
With his Preakness victory, Tabasco Cat became Lukas's first major (Grade I) stakes winner since Twilight Agenda took the Meadowlands Cup in October 1991.
Lukas and Day teamed with Tank's Prospect to win the 1985 Preakness. Lukas also won with his first Preakness starter, Codex, in 1980; Day's other winner was Summer Squall in 1990.
Lukas had viewed Tabasco Cat's No. 1 post position with some dismay on Thursday, fearing that the Storm Cat colt might be trapped inside. But as the 10-horse field approached the first turn, that concern dissipated.
Tabasco Cat was running freely on the rail in fourth, a trio of horses in front of him. Polar Expedition left the gate fastest and took a slight lead inside of Go for Gin entering the turn, with the gray speedster Silver Goblin farthest outside.
As Go for Gin and Polar Expedition ran side-by-side on the lead through most of the backstretch, Day and Tabasco Cat had them within easy range. When Silver Goblin began to wither near the far turn, Tabasco Cat passed him on the inside and then set out after Go for Gin, who was beginning to leave Polar Expedition.
Near the top of the stretch, with a quarter-mile remaining, Go for Gin's one-length lead over Tabasco Cat was fast diminishing.
"I could hear a horse coming up on my hip when I turned for home," said Chris McCarron, the rider of Go for Gin. "I wasn't really sure who it was."
By the eighth-mile pole in midstretch, he found out. Tabasco Cat, wearing white blinkers, moved abreast of the Derby winner on the outside. McCarron was pumping hard, but Go for Gin couldn't pull away. "Finally," Day said, "at the eighth pole, I said let's go on and get the money."
But even with stout urging from Day, Tabasco Cat never surged away from the gritty Go for Gin, who caused McCarron no regrets.
"It was fun," the Hall of Fame jockey said. "This colt really ran hard."
Third betting choice at 7-2, Tabasco Cat returned $9.20 to win, $4.60 to place and $4.60 to show. The exacta paid $34.20.
Tabasco Cat -- by Storm Cat out of Barbicue Sauce -- was bred by Young and Reynolds. Chairman emeritus of the Reynolds Aluminum Co., Reynolds owns the Maryland-based stallion Lord Gaylord and boards his broodmares at Worthington Farm in Glyndon, Md. Young, who owned the ill-fated Union City, said: "One gropes for adjectives, but this has to be the greatest thrill I've had in sports. Last year, we left here as sad as you can be."
Pimlico officials were happy. The track and its in-state affiliates handled $8,229,850 on the 11-race program, a Maryland record.