- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Picking the Kentucky Derby winner used to be easy. Just go with one of the gray-haired trainers.D. Wayne Lukas has won four Derbies since 1988, Bob Baffert took three and Nick Zito two. But Zito sat out this year and Baffert lost two of three horses in his bid for a second straight Derby on Tuesday, leaving him only long shot Indian Express. Lukas, though, has a pair of long shots in Scrimshaw and Ten Cents a Shine.”I started out with a bag of chips, and all I have left are the crumbs,” Baffert said jokingly.Not all Derby bettors will ignore Baffert and Lukas in today’s 129th running, after their 1-2 finish last year sparked a $1,300 exacta. Long-time racegoers couldn’t believe they missed the windfall provided by the two big names.Indian Express (12 to 1) might even lead turning for home today, but the speedster doesn’t have the same power War Emblem mustered when he led the entire race last year for Baffert. The Utah-bred won his first two starts in Panama before losing two California stakes, including the Santa Anita Derby on April 5 by a head. Scrimshaw will get some wise-guy backing after an impressive three-length victory in the Lexington Stakes on April 19 — the same prep Lukas’ Charismatic used before his 1999 Derby victory. Scrimshaw overcame a bad start, got bumped on the turn and ran four-wide on the final turn.Lukas has won 13 Triple Crown races but learned to worry about the Derby first rather than trying to save a colt for the grinding three-race series.”I use to have grandiose ideas thinking I wanted to win them all,” he said. “I would use the Kentucky Derby as a prep for the Preakness. I wanted to get by the Derby, then have something for the Preakness and then win the Belmont. I abandoned that 10 years ago. I figured I better get this one first.”Lukas, 67, is now the oldest trainer in the field. It’s a striking difference from his 1981 debut when senior trainers Woody Stephens and Charlie Whittingham chided the brisk newcomer for being unafraid to speak freely about other horses. Lukas enters his record 41st Derby no longer seeking validation.”I feel more comfortable, more sure of myself,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun now.”Desormeaux recallsJockey Kent Desormeaux left Maryland in 1989 to gain Derby mounts. Despite dominating Maryland with two record single-season victory titles and two Eclipse Awards, he departed for Southern California and the chance to ride champions.Desormeaux seeks his third rose blanket today aboard Outta Here, a 50-1 long shot who was fourth in a Dubai stakes in his only 2003 race. It’s a strikingly bad mount for last year’s Derby winner, but he has ridden long shots before; he was 16th in 1988 aboard Purdue King.”Fifteen years? That doesn’t seem possible,” Desormeaux said. “I can tell you every rust pit in the gate. I can see it right now. Every chip in the bar in the starting gate. I can tell you I almost dropped somebody not to be last down the lane. I can tell you it was a gut-wrenching experience. My stomach was in knots. I hardly remember seeing any of the race track. I had to stop and take a look around afterwards. Now it seems like it is in slow motion.”Sir Cherokee outArkansas Derby winner Sir Cherokee was withdrawn after suffering a broken right rear ankle while galloping Thursday. He’ll miss at least three months.”The timing is horrendous,” trainer Mike Tomlinson said. “It was tough to get squeezed out.”Because Sir Cherokee was in the No. 3 post, stewards ruled Supah Blitz and Brancusi will move out one slot from the first and second posts, respectively, rather than slide 14 horses inside one position. That leaves the No. 1 post empty. Program numbers remain the same, though.Details, detailsTrainer Bobby Frankel rejected a request by track officials that Empire Maker wear ill-fitting black blinkers instead of his usual blue because they photograph better.”They’ll just color them in black,” he said jokingly.

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