DEL MAR — It should come as no great surprise that Wayne Lukas was standing in the winner's circle Sunday afternoon as trainer of the winner of the Del Mar Debutante.
After all, Lukas is widely known as the best trainer of 2-year-old fillies this decade. Of the last five juvenile filly champions, Lukas has trained three: Family Style (1985), Althea (1983) and Landaluce (1982), all winners of the Debutante.
What was surprising, though, was that Lukas' Lost Kitty won the $195,000 feature race at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club--by five lengths--giving her trainer six victories in the last 10 Debutantes, the premier 2-year-old filly race of the Del Mar season.
In order to prevail over the one-mile main track course, Lost Kitty had to defeat heavily favored Hasty Pasty, a filly who had won two straight stakes races here and had pulled away to defeat Lost Kitty by 3 1/2 lengths when the two last met in the Sorrento Stakes Aug. 24.
But Lukas said afterward, "I thought we had an awfully good chance of winning."
Beforehand, though, most of the 28,483 fans in attendance disagreed. Hasty Pasty was sent off as a solid 2-5 favorite, while Lost Kitty, racing as part of an entry with Royal Weekend, was pegged as an 8-5 second choice.
After the race began, however, things set up well for Lukas' horse. Rated well by leading jockey Gary Stevens, Lost Kitty sat second behind front-running British Moon.
"The last time she ran, she went to the lead, and I don't think she runs as well there," Lukas said. "She's better when she waits some to start running."
When she started running Sunday, it was all over for Hasty Pasty. Lost Kitty pulled away from the favorite at the head of the stretch and won going away . Royal Weekend came on to nip Hasty Pasty in a photo finish for second.
The entry paid $5.20 to win and place. With only five horses entered, the smallest field in the 37-year history of the race, there was no show wagering.
The victory solidified Lukas' chances to saddle another top 2-year-old filly champion this year. Whether that horse will be Lost Kitty, however, is still a matter of debate, according to Lukas.
"I think our barn of 2-year-old fillies is as deep as it has ever been," Lukas said. "Jeff (his son) has a lot of strong contenders on the East Coast too. We will be spotting this horse for the Breeder's Cup, though. And she looks like she'll have a good chance."
Lukas also has a good chance to repeat as the nation's top trainer, an award he has won the last two years. Lukas' barn has already produced 67 stakes winners this year, compared with 64 all of last year.
Del Mar Notes
Swink, a two-length winner in the Grade I Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park July 27, has been installed as the 3-1 favorite in today's 48th running of the $300,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on the turf course. Swink, trained by Charlie Wittingham, will be carrying a race-high 120 pounds, eight more than he carried in the Sunset. Rodney Rash, Wittingham's assistant, said the high weight could be problem. "I think the racing secretary might have been a little generous on that weight," he said. "But I think my horse is coming up to the race in good order." Santella Mac, who finished second to Sharood in the Eddie Read Handicap here, is the morning line second choice at 7-2. If last year's handicap is any indication, however, odds won't mean much today. Last year's winner, Raipillan, went off at 41-1. Schiller, who finished second, went off at 77-1. Schiller is in the field again today. . . . Rash said Sunday that things are going along well for Wittingham's 2-year-old colt, Bold Second, who won the De Anza Stakes here and could be the trainer's best hope in the Del Mar Futurity on closing day. The colt hasn't been nominated for the Futurity, but Rash said it is still likely the colt will run as a supplemental entry. If so, it would probably face Purdue King and Accomplish Ridge for the 2-year-old championship.