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Note: Lucas Wins at Belmont Again

By Vinnie Perrone
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 9 1996

ELMONT, N.Y., JUNE 8--For 10 years, Woody Stephens's five straight Belmont Stakes victories has been considered an unreachable record for thoroughbred trainers. But Wayne Lukas took a giant step closer today on a long stride of Editor's Note.

Three weeks after his unprecedented six-race Triple Crown winning streak ended in the Preakness, Lukas continued another. Before 40,797 at Belmont Park, Editor's Note advanced from far back and outbattled Skip Away in a quarter-mile stretch duel to win by a length, giving Lukas his third straight victory in the Belmont.

My Flag, only the 20th filly to run in 128 years of the Belmont, rallied energetically to finish third.

Editor's Note, winless in nine starts since September, found redemption in the most demanding of the Triple Crown races. The 1 1/2-mile Belmont was not so kind to Cavonnier, whom jockey Chris McCarron brought to a halt an eighth-mile from the finish wire after the horse "took a bad step" entering the stretch.

Veterinarian Larry Bramlage reported that Cavonnier suffered a bowed tendon in his lower right foreleg, a serious injury that is not life-threatening. The Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up could race again, but horses with bowed tendons seldom recapture and retain their preinjury form.

"It's not as disastrous as we first thought," trainer Bob Baffert said outside Cavonnier's stable afterward. "When I was coming back here, I was thinking I was going to see something horrible. This horse is like a brother."

Baffert and McCarron had had the Kentucky Derby snatched from them five weeks ago when Grindstone beat Cavonnier by a bob of the head. That stretched Lukas's winning streak in Triple Crown races to six, beginning with the 1994 Preakness, and gave longtime client William T. Young, of Overbrook Farm, his first Derby victory.

The Lukas stable, often dynamic, is also resilient. Less than five weeks since Grindstone was retired suddenly with a knee chip, Young, 77, and Lukas, 60, smiled again after Editor's Note edged clear of Skip Away in 2 minutes 28 4/5 seconds. He did it under 29-year-old Rene Douglas, who was given the mount only after jockey Gary Stevens dislocated his left shoulder in a race Wednesday in California.

Stevens, awaiting surgery, joined the ABC telecast team today and watched a victory by the horse he had guided to a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a third-place effort in the Preakness. Douglas had ridden a horse for Lukas in the Preakness Stakes, and won a chance on Editor's Note after Stephens became indisposed.

In a 14-horse field, Douglas had Editor's Note 12th through the backstretch as Natural Selection, Preakness winner Louis Quatorze and Skip Away raced three abreast for the lead.

Midway through the far turn, three-eighths of a mile before the finish, Jose Santos sent Skip Away to the lead three wide. By then, Editor's Note was gaining fast on the outside, and the two entered the homestretch side by side.

As they did, Mike Smith moved the filly My Flag from a pack of chasers and decisively into third, but her determined, five-wide rally bore no impact on the front-runners.

Editor's Note had the momentum as he headed Skip Away turning for home, but he found the gray colt a feisty foe. Editor's Note took a scant lead with less than three-sixteenths of a mile to go, but Skip Away surged back on the inside. They were even for a furlong, before Editor's Note switched to his left lead and gained the advantage for good.

Skip Away, so gallant after breaking from Post 13 and going wide around both turns, again crushed the notion that he can prosper only in the mud. On a moist Pimlico track three weeks ago, he finished a game second to Louis Quatorze in the Preakness. And through the dry dirt today, he gave Editor's Note a mighty challenge.

Trainer Sonny Hine, a former Baltimorean, spoke proudly of Skip Away's performance today. But he was no more effusive in his praise than Lukas, who said: "That horse laid it down for :Hine: today. That was a hell of an effort."

The same, of course, could be said for Lukas. Editor's Note followed Tabasco Cat (co-owned by Young) and Thunder Gulch in the glowing line of Belmont winners from the Lukas stable.

Lukas never has been close to Woody Stephens personally, but he moved nearer to the training legend's record five Belmont victories, a run that began with Conquistador Cielo in 1982.

"It's a hell of a nudge," Lukas said.

Editor's Note earned $437,880 from a pool of $729,800, the total purse lowered by the fever-caused withdrawal of longshot Secreto de Estado less than 90 minutes before post time. The winner, a chestnut sun of Forty Niner, paid $13.60 as the 5-1 second choice.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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