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TRIPLE CROWN RATINGS

REMARKS: The trainer of Media Plan, the last-place finisher in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, stood in admiration when Dinard, the winner of the race, came back to be unsaddled.

“You’ve got to give that horse credit,” Lukas said. “He’s got it all together. He’s got a lot of seasoning for a horse who’s run so few races.”

The Santa Anita Derby was only the fifth race for Dinard. Only one other starter in the nine-horse field had less experience, and he is a maiden. Dinard didn’t get to the races until Dec. 26, opening day at Santa Anita. Again, only one of his opponents Saturday had gotten a later start.

It was Lukas’ horse who almost ruined Dinard’s chances at the start of the race. Media Plan abruptly dropped in front of Dinard on the first turn, forcing jockey Chris McCarron to snatch up his mount.

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“Dinard is an awful handy horse,” Lukas said. “We did that to him and he actually changed leads twice, first to avoid the trouble and then to get going again. You wouldn’t expect that from a horse with so few races under his belt.”

No trainer has been to the Kentucky Derby as often as Lukas in recent years. He has had at least one starter every year since 1981, and out of 18 horses, he has had one winner, the filly Winning Colors in 1988. Lukas is struggling to find a horse to run in the Derby May 4, but in the meantime he is looking forward to the matchup between Dinard and Fly So Free, last year’s champion 2-year-old colt and undefeated in three starts this year.

“It’s going to be one of those East-West deals at the Derby again,” Lukas said. “Like Swaps and Nashua (1955), Secretariat and Sham (1973) and Sunday Silence and Easy Goer (1989).”

Without picking a winner, Lukas suggests that Dinard has the style to beat Fly So Free. “It’ll be interesting,” Lukas said. “The way the scenario should play, Fly So Free will be in front. But Dinard is such a good finisher. He can move so quick. He’s got that quick, hard move from the outside.”

Not many horses try to win the Derby with only five starts on their record. Since 1955, the most lightly raced Derby winners have been Sunday Silence (1989), Winning Colors (1988) and Seattle Slew (1977), who won the stake in their seventh starts. The Derby was the eighth race for Genuine Risk, the filly who won in 1980, and Majestic Prince, who won in 1969. The average number of pre-Derby starts by the winners in the last 10 years has been 9.6. Sunny’s Halo had run 13 times--but only twice as a 3-year-old--before his Derby win in 1983.

In another era, Regret, the first filly to win the Derby, raced only three times--winning three sprints at Saratoga--as a 2-year-old, then won at Churchill Downs in her 3-year-old debut. Exterminator won the 1918 Derby in his first start as a 3-year-old, after running four times the year before.

Fly So Free’s final Derby prep will be Saturday, against a field that might include only Strike The Gold and two others in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass at Keeneland. The last Blue Grass winner to repeat in the Derby was Spectacular Bid in 1979. More recently, Blue Grass runners-up--Gato Del Sol in 1982, Alysheba in 1987 and Unbridled last year--have been the horses to win the Derby. Unbridled was third at Keeneland, beaten by Summer Squall by 3 3/4 lengths, but three weeks later he beat Summer Squall by 3 1/2 lengths in the Derby.

Alysheba actually finished first in the Blue Grass, but was disqualified to third for interference. “That was the first time I rode the horse,” said McCarron, who was also aboard for their stagger-step victory in the Derby. “The horse I’ve got this time (Dinard) is a lot more mature than Alysheba was going into the Derby.”

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Alysheba had raced 10 times before the Derby.

Advisory panel for The Times’ Triple Crown Ratings: Lenny Hale, vice president for racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga; Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, director of racing emeritus at Santa Anita; and Tommy Trotter, director of international racing at Arlington International Racecourse.

Career Horse S 1 2 3 Earnings 1. Fly So Free 9 7 0 1 $1,301,844 2. Dinard 5 4 1 0 452,750 3. Best Pal 10 6 2 1 1,148,695 4. Meadow Star 9 9 0 0 1,086,850 5. Hansel 8 4 1 2 724,593 6. Sea Cadet 11 5 2 2 457,050 7. Strike The Gold 6 1 2 1 118,290 8. Olympio 7 4 1 0 278,675 9. Richman 13 8 2 1 585,379 10. Mane Minister 8 3 0 2 154,700


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