After a one-race absence from the winner's circle in Triple Crown races, Wayne Lukas returned Saturday in the Belmont Stakes - with a colt who had lost his nine previous starts.
Editor's Note took the lead from Skip Away with about 3-16ths of a mile to go, gave it back almost immediately, then regained it to win by a length.While Lukas and owner W.T. Young, who combined to win the Kentucky Derby with Grindstone, celebrated the victory, trainer Bob Baffert watched his favored Cavonnier leave the track in a horse ambulance.
Cavonnier, the Derby runner-up and fourth in the Preakness, was pulled up in the stretch because of a bowed tendon in his right front leg.
"It's not life-threatening, but it could be career-threatening," Baffert said of the injury to the gelding. "I just feel so bad for the horse." Another one of the 14 starters, South Salem, was eased as he crossed the finish line.
Editor's Note had finished sixth in the Derby. He was third in the Preakness when Lukas' streak of six straight Triple Crown victories was snapped by Louis Quatorze, who finished fourth on this bright, humid Saturday.
"One in a row is not a streak," joked Lukas after becoming the fourth trainer to win at least three straight Belmonts.
"Woody's streak is safe," he said, referring to Woody Stephens' five straight Belmont wins from 1982-86.
"I told Bill Young, there's one out there with his (Editor's Note's) name on it," Lukas said. "I think he matured through the season."
"The excitement of these Triple Crown races has had me on the verge of tears several times," said the 77-year old Young, who had to retire Grindstone after his Derby victory because of bone chip. "But now I'm going to have a good cry of happiness."
Editor's Note, whose last previous victory was in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Sept. 23 at Turfway Park, was ridden by Rene Douglas. He replaced Gary Stevens, who told Lukas Wednesday night that a shoulder injury would keep him from riding.
"Right now there is no feeling at all," said Douglas, 29, when asked how it felt to win a Triple Crown race. "He did everything like a nice horse does."
Skip Away finished four lengths in front of the filly, My Flag, who was another two lengths ahead of Louis Quatorze, trained by Nick Zito. Zito has two Derby victories and a Preakness victory, but has never been able to finish better than second in the Belmont, something he has done four times in the 1990s.
Zito won the 1994 Derby with Go For Gin and then Lukas reeled off six wins before Louis Quatorze snapped his streak three weeks ago. A trainer not named Lukas or Zito has not won a Triple Crown race since Scotty Schulhofer won the 1993 Belmont with Colonial Affair.
Editor's Note, carrying 126 pounds, as did every starter except My Flag at 121, completed the 11/2 miles on a fast track in 2:28.96.
He paid $13.60, $6.50 and $4.30. Skip away, ridden by Jose Santos, returned $8.20 and $6.20, and My Flag, ridden by Mike Smith was $5.50 to show.
Completing the order of finish were the Lukas-trained Prince of Thieves, Rocket Flash, Natural Selection, Jamies First Punch, In Contention, Traffic Circle, Saratoga Dandy and Appealing Skier.
Secreto de Estado was scratched about an hour before the race because of a fever of 101.5 degrees.
"I've been blessed with great horses and wonderful owners," Lukas said. "It's what it's all about! . . . The Belmont track with its sweeping turns and distances helps. Rene Douglas gave him a super ride."
Douglas did perform superbly.
He had Editor's Note laying about 11th down the backstretch, then had him between horses to sixth or seventh with a half-mile to go.
Douglas then took Editor's Note four wide into the turn to become fourth in mid-turn and second at the quarter pole.
Then Editor's Note and Skip Away, on the inside, began their stretch duel that had a crowd of 40,797 roaring.
Editor's Note was not to be denied Saturday as he gained his first victory in seven starts this year and his fourth win in 17 races. The stakes-tested colt, however, also has four seconds and three thirds, and with the winner's share of $437,880 now has a career bankroll of $963,894.
Cavonnier was fifth with a mile to go and had moved to fourth with a half-mile remaining. He was sixth at the quarter pole and then was pulled up with jockey Chris McCarron dismounting immediately.
"He has been a sound horse and always tried very hard," Baffert said of Cavonnier, who lost by a nose to Grindstone in the closest Kentucky Derby since 1959. "This is every trainer's nightmare because you always wonder about a career injury and saving the horse."