Once Too Hot to Handle, Lukas' Tabasco Cat Delivers the Sauce

Article excerpt

What a difference a year makes for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

After suffering through professional and personal anguish for the last 12 months, Lukas found redemption Saturday.

His horse, Tabasco Cat, made a bold, powerful move down the stretch and held off Kentucky-Derby champ Go For Gin, winning the 119th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Lukas' story reads like a Hollywood soap opera - especially over the last year. It started at last year's Preakness when Lukas' horse, Union City, broke its ankle and was destroyed. The frustration was part of a 30-month stretch where Lukas failed to win a major stakes race.

In December, Lukas' son Jeff, also a trainer, was working with Tabasco Cat at a California track when the horse broke free and trampled him. The son was in a coma and near death for several weeks.

Despite the incident, the father decided to stay with the horse and prepare it for the Triple Crown races. Lukas and his son both were rewarded. Jeff is recovering nicely and was watching the Preakness on television.

"Anytime you get one of these classics, it's special," Lukas said. "This one probably means a little more for several reasons. Jeff is the obvious one."

Ridden skillfully by jockey Pat Day, Tabasco Cat overtook Go For Gin down the stretch and held on to win by 3/4-quarters length. Tabasco Cat paid $9.40, $4.60 and $4.60 and covered the mile-and-three-sixteenths in a modest 1:56 2/5. That's three seconds off Tank's Prospect's Preakness record set in 1985.

Go For Gin paid $4.60 and $4.40. Concern, ridden by Garrett Gomez, returned $6.40 as part of an entry with Looming.

Kandaly, the Louisiana Derby winner scratched from the Kentucky Derby because of the sloppy track, finished fourth. He was followed by Numerous, Blumin Affair, Looming, Silver Goblin, Powis Castle and Polar Expedition.

Go For Gin becomes the 10th horse in the last 12 years to see his Triple Crown hopes extinguished at the Preakness. No horse has won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Affirmed held off Alydar in three memorable races in 1978.

But true to his hard-working nature, Go For Gin fared better than most Derby winners have at the Preakness. …