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TABASCO CAT, HOLY BULL ONES TO BEAT AT THIS YEAR’S DERBY

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D. Wayne Lukas knows Tabasco Cat will always be "the horse that ran over Jeff." By week's end, he would also like him to be the 1994 Kentucky Derby winner.

"I know in some years past, I might have had to make an excuse for bringing them," he said. "I don't have to this year."The Lukas-trained Tabasco Cat will be a leading contender in the Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs. No excuses needed there. Not like when he brought such forgettable also-rans as Shy Tom to the Derby in 1989, or Power Lunch in '90, or Al Sabin in '92.

And he made no excuses for Tabasco Cat last year either, when, as a rambunctious 2-year-old colt, he got loose in the stable area at Santa Anita Park and ran over Wayne's son, Jeff, nearly killing him.

"It was just a case of a frightened horse running off," Lukas said.

Tabasco Cat is expected to be one of 15 or 16 entered on Thursday for the 11/4-mile Derby, first of the three Triple Crown races that test each year's 3-year-olds.

Co-favored, or close to it, will be Blue Grass winner Holy Bull and Santa Anita Derby winner Brocco, who also won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last Nov. 6 at Santa Anita. Lukas said Tabasco Cat and Strodes Creek, who ran 2-3 in the Santa Anita Derby, should be added to that group.

"After that, there's another five about the same," Lukas said. "A horse like Kandaly might win the Derby, but it would be a hell of a jump for him. In reality, there's only four or five horses that should win this race."

Tabasco Cat will be Lukas' 23rd career Derby starter, one short of the record by Dick Thompson in the 1920s and '30s. Thompson, however, had four winners. Lukas has had one, Winning Colors in 1988.

He hasn't had a Grade I stakes winner since Twilight Agenda captured the Meadowlands Cup in the fall of 1991.

Tabasco Cat was undefeated this year, winning a pair of graded stakes, until hooking up with Brocco at the Santa Anita Derby. He was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Brocco and Blumin Affair, another probable starter on Saturday.