LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jockey Shane Sellers finished a disappointing 12th with Skip Away, but he and his agent, Ronnie Ebanks, had other reasons to be grieving after Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Sellers had passed up the mount on Grindstone to ride another horse in mid-March, and Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, Ebanks was paying off a $2,000 Derby side bet that he had made with trainer Wayne Lukas.
Is there anything that Lukas didn't win? With Grindstone, the 122nd Derby was his, a triumph that extended his record Triple Crown winning streak to six races. Lukas ran five horses in the Derby and three of them finished among the first six, with Prince Of Thieves running third and Editor's Note, Grindstone's stablemate, coming in sixth. Of the $1.1 million in purse money, the Lukas barn collected $954,800, plus the $2,000 that Lukas personally took from Ebanks after Prince Of Thieves finished ahead of Skip Away.
Already Lukas is preparing for his attack on the next race, the Preakness on May 18. His invasion of Pimlico will almost be as intense as it was on Churchill Downs.
Grindstone, Editor's Note and Prince Of Thieves are definite for the Preakness, and there's an outside chance Dr. Caton will complete a quartet, even though that colt underwent surgery recently for an entrapped epiglottis.
Lukas' horses will be opposed by a group that might test Pimlico's 14-horse limit for the Preakness. Should more than 14 want to run, the horses with the most career earnings will qualify.
Besides the Lukas trio, at least three other Derby horses will be back for more, headed by Cavonnier, who lost by a nose in the final jump against Grindstone, and Unbridled's Song, the sore-footed colt who finished fifth, becoming the 17th consecutive beaten favorite in the Derby. Another Preakness probable is Skip Away.
The new shooters include City By Night, scratched the day before the Derby because of an abscessed foot; Roar, winner of the Jim Beam and third in the Lexington Stakes; Pugnacious, who has recovered from a blood disorder after running 10th in the Arkansas Derby; and Tour's Big Red and Thundering Storm, who were first and last, respectively, in the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.
Lukas conceded that Grindstone might not even be favored in Baltimore. "If Unbridled's Song trains well, he could be favored again," he said. "That would put [trainer] Jim Ryerson under the gun again. It's no fun training in a fishbowl, as he had to do before the Derby, but he took a lot of heat and still did all right. I still like his horse. After all, before he ever ran, I tried to buy him three times."
After leading at the quarter pole Saturday, Unbridled's Song slid to the center of the track.
"It was the bar shoes," said his owner, Ernie Paragallo. "When he [switched lead feet], he started slipping for two strides."
Word from Unbridled's Song's barn Sunday was that he would continue training with the protective bar shoes, then be reshod with standard racing plates for the Preakness.
The Preakness has been Lukas' strongest Triple Crown race. He has won the last two runnings, with Tabasco Cat and Timber Country, and he also won it in 1980 with Codex and in 1985 with Tank's Prospect.