Originally created 05/17/99

Lukas gets Triple Crown shot with Charismatic



BALTIMORE -- D. Wayne Lukas has trained the winners of 12 Triple Crown races, but never a Triple Crown champion.

"It's one of the things that is not on my resume," said Lukas, whose horses have earned almost $200 million. "I'd love to have it. The chance comes along so seldom."

On June 5, a strapping chestnut named Charismatic can become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed in 1978 by winning the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont Stakes. A victory would make Lukas the 10th trainer of a Triple Crown winner.

Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Ben Jones each trained two Triple Crown champions.

"He's starting to figure it out," Lukas said Sunday on the morning after Charismatic added a victory in Preakness to his triumph in the Kentucky Derby.

Now maybe the bettors will start to figure out that Charismatic is for real.

His Derby victory was worth $64.60, the third largest in the race's 125-year history. It was treated by many handicappers and fans as a fluke -- a good-luck trip in a crowded field -- and so he went to the post Saturday at Pimlico as an 8-1 shot.

That made him the longest-priced Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness since Dark Star was 11-1 when he finished fifth in 1953.

It's certain Charismatic will be a short price in the Belmont. After all, he is fast becoming charismatic.

Ridden by Chris Antley, Charismatic moved to the threshold of racing immortality by sweeping past horses on the turn, opening a three-length lead with about one-eighth of a mile remaining.

At the wire, he was 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Menifee, with Badge another head back and 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Stephen Got Even in the field of 13 3-year-olds.

The time for the 1 3-16 miles was 1:55.32 after rapid opening fractions of 22.50 for the quarter mile and 45.27 for the half.

This will be the third straight year the Triple Crown has been on the line in the Belmont. Silver Charm failed by three-quarters of a length in 1997 and Real Quiet was a nose short last year.

Charismatic is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of Silver Charm, trained by Bob Baffert, also the trainer of Real Quiet.

"I think he has the style and strength to get it done," Lukas said of Charismatic, who was racing for the fourth time in 42 days. It was his third straight win.

Charismatic will go back to Lukas' barn at Churchill Downs today. He probably will have his final Belmont workout there on June 1, then be flown to New York from Louisville the next day.

Lukas said Cat Thief, third in the Derby and seventh in the Preakness, will skip the Belmont.

The Belmont could have 10 to 12 starters and expected to take another shot at Charismatic are Menifee, Badge and Stephen Got Even.

Menifee, also second in the 1 1/4 -mile Derby, is trained by Elliott Walden, trainer of Victory Gallop, who finished second last year in the Derby and Preakness, then beat Real Quiet in the Belmont.

Stephen Got Even's performance pleased trainer Nick Zito in the wake of his 14th-place finish in the Derby.

Badge paid a show price of $18.80, the same as Charismatic's winning mutuel return, in his first start since finishing fourth in the Wood Memorial on April 10 at Aqueduct.