Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas apparently avoided serious injury Tuesday when one of his horses reared up and struck him on top of the head at his Belmont Park barn. Lukas, 76, was taken to Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. From there, he told the New York Racing Association, "I will be fine,'' and that he "fully expects to be back at the barn'' today.
Lukas trains Optimizer, who is scheduled to be entered Wednesday in Saturday's Belmont Stakes. Ron Anderson, the agent for Optimizer's jockey, Corey Nakatani, was at the hospital with Lukas, who Anderson said will need stitches. Anderson said the culprit was Hamazing Destiny, who ended Lukas' 116-race losing streak in stakes May 19 on the Preakness undercard.
Triple Crown contender I'll Have Another ran the worst race of his life on a sloppy track last Sept. 5 at Saratoga. His sixth-place finish in the Hopeful Stakes was the only time in seven races he's been worse than second. Trainer Doug O'Neill said he "came out of it with sore shins,'' which led to a five-month layoff.
Three weeks earlier, Belmont entrant Union Rags dominated the Saratoga Special in the slop. John Velazquez will ride Union Rags in the Belmont, and Tuesday he teased O'Neill at a media event in Manhattan. "Doug, I'm going to ask the racing gods to bring rain,'' Velazquez said.
Saturday's forecast predicts Johnny V.'s prayers are unlikely to be answered. The Weather Channel says it will be partly cloudy, with a high of 78, and a 20-percent chance of rain on race day.