Derby win fails to make War Emblem favorite

Thursday, May 16, 2002

BALTIMORE -- Don't get him wrong, D. Wayne Lukas was impressed with War Emblem's victory in the Kentucky Derby. But darn, rival trainer Bob Baffert is one fortunate fellow.

"He's extremely lucky, period," Lukas said Wednesday after arriving at Pimlico. "Not only this year, but all the time. He seems like he's always landing on his feet. He's been on scholarship his whole life."

Baffert acquired War Emblem three weeks before the Derby, then watched him cruise to a wire-to-wire, four-length win over Lukas' Proud Citizen at odds of 20-1.

Earlier this week, Lukas said if Saudi Prince Ahmed Salman didn't buy War Emblem from 84-year-old Russell Reineman for $900,000, then "we win the Derby."

Baffert accepts the lucky label.

"You got to be in this game," Baffert said after settling War Emblem into his stall at the Preakness stakes barn. "It's one of those things where we never quit. We never give up. We keep going, looking ... you can't rest on your laurels. And so we got lucky. He could have easily run up the track and we look like dummies."

No matter the circumstances, winning is what Baffert and Lukas do best, especially in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the races that make up the Triple Crown.

On Saturday, Baffert shoots for his fourth Preakness victory in six years with War Emblem, the 3-1 second-choice behind 5-2 favorite Medaglia d'Oro. Lukas goes for his sixth, which would put him one behind all-time leader Robert Walden.

Should War Emblem win, the front-running dark bay colt would give Baffert a third chance at saddling the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

If Lukas wins with either Proud Citizen or Table Limit, it would be the Hall of Famer's record 14th Triple Crown race victory, breaking a tie with "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons. Proud Citizen was the fourth choice at 6-1.

Between them, Lukas and Baffert have won 17 of the last 24 Triple Crown races -- Lukas has 10, Baffert seven.

It was arrival day for many of the 13 horses for Saturday's 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Besides War Emblem and Proud Citizen, others arriving from Kentucky were Booklet, Easyfromthegitgo, Harlan's Holiday and Table Limit.

Harlan's Holiday, the beaten Derby favorite, was the third choice at 9-2.

While War Emblem and Proud Citizen went off as Derby long shots, they will not be overlooked in the Preakness. Both were last-minute arrivals on the Derby scene, and bettors didn't buy into a potential 1-2 finish from Baffert and Lukas despite their Triple Crown credentials.

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