a nice long weekend it’s been for some of us. For those of us that enjoyed it, I challenge
any of you to tell me that you did better than D. Wayne Lukas. From off the
derby radar and almost nowhere, the Hall of Famer is now on the move. Today, he
concluded a very fine weekend of racing and has officially made his jump towards
the first Saturday in May with not one but two legitimate contenders.
things started was Oxbow in the G3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on
Saturday. The horse that wasn’t talked about a whole lot in the Juvenile season
made a convincing argument in his 3-yr-old debut. It’s a great
accomplishment for a horse to wire the field and win by a conservative margin
but it’s a whole different discussion when the margin is 10 lengths or more.
Once they hit the stretch the race was over as the son of Awesome Again got our
attention en route to drawing away by 11 ½. The win combined with a 4th
place finish in the CashCall Futurity moves Oxbow into sole possession of 3rd
place on the Kentucky Derby Standings with 11 points.
in Hot Springs, where Lukas spends most of his time, was the other 3-yr-old
with derby hopes. Unlike Oxbow, Will Take Charge failed miserably in his first Kentucky
Derby Prep. It was the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Will Take Charge
finished dead last in the field of thirteen. The result posed serious questions about
his chances of becoming a derby hopeful. Up until today those questions remained. But, that was also when Will Take Charge proved that he is up for the challenge. It took all he had to get by Texas Bling and then hang on but he did
by a neck. The win scored him 10 points and put him into the company of six
other Kentucky Derby contenders that also rank 4th in the standings.
two wins are great news for D. Wayne Lukas as they put him back into the
Kentucky Derby picture. It is early and these two colts will
have more to prove before they can make a huge jump on the contender watch
list. But, they’ve put themselves into position and quite possibly the best position
that their trainer has had in sometime. If you recall, it wasn’t that long ago that his place
on the scene was headed in the wrong direction very quickly.
was the middle of May 2012 when the only news surrounding D. Wayne Lukas wasn't great. Earlier in the month he again failed to make much noise in the
Kentucky Derby. Making things even more frustrating was on one of the most
mind-boggling streaks that anyone could imagine; 116 straight losses in stakes
races. Without flinching the Hall of Famer carried on. He arrived at Pimilco on
Preakness day like it was just another day at the office. Well dressed,
sunglasses on and thoroughbreds ready to race, D. Wayne Lukas was on hand for what
turned out to be a very satisfying day.
began with race 8, the Grade 3 $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap. Even though
he was in the midst of a streak that dated back to 2009, the general betting
public was as unfazed as the man himself. Hamazing Destiny with Corey Nakatani
aboard was sent off as the 5/2 favorite and he ran like it. He rolled home for
the win by 1 ½ lengths and the streak was ended.
the drought ended, a different streak began to unfold. In the very next race,
Lukas returned with Skyring in the James W. Murphy Stakes. The 3-yr-old had
never raced on turf but as it turned out that's where he belonged. The win gave
the legendary trainer his second straight stakes triumph and set him up for a
hat trick of dynamic proportions. However, the feat would have to be concluded
by a horse that many felt had no shot on the dirt in the Preakness Stakes. We later
learned that to be the case. Optimizer was no match and a Triple Crown slump continued
have to go all the way back to the Belmont Stakes in 2000 to find the last time
that D. Wayne Lukas had won a Triple Crown race. In an unlikely effort
Commendable became the long shot winner for Lukas making it his fourth Belmont
victory and 13th Triple Crown victory overall. This was also the race
that concluded what was a very memorable and dominating stretch for the hall of
1994 his highly regarded 3-yr-old Tabasco Cat wasn’t ready on the first
Saturday in May but he wasn’t about to quit. Instead, he returned to gamely push
ahead of the Kentucky Derby champ Go for Gin in the final stretches of the
Preakness Stakes. The win set off a streak that is sometimes forgotten. The
1994 Preakness Stakes was the first of 6 consecutive Triple Crown wins for D.
Wayne Lukas. After Tabasco Cat returned to take the Belmont Stakes Lukas proceeded to
win his own Triple Crown in 1995. Thunder Gulch started things out at Churchill
Downs and ended it at Belmont Park while Timber Country took care of things
at Pimlico. As for the Kentucky Derby the following year it was Grindstone that
would wear the roses in 1996.
Wayne Lukas would go on to capture his fourth Kentucky Derby win with
Charismatic in 1999. Since then however the idea that it was his final Kentucky
Derby triumph has been growing. Over the last 13 years a formidable Kentucky
Derby threat has been hard to find for Lukas. Although he has fielded 10 different
entries he has only been able to finish better than 7th place on one
occasion. Proud Citizen was a very fine contender in 2002 but his effort to
catch the horse that took the field from wire to wire came up short by ¾ lengths.
War Emblem stole the show and Lukas has since been waiting for another chance
to wear the roses.
brings us back to 2013 and where he stands after this weekend. If we begin with
the Juvenile season it’s safe to say that D. Wayne Lukas wasn’t anywhere near
the potential Kentucky Derby winner discussions. Even now he may not be right
on top of it but I will say that’s its very nice to have him in it. Lukas is a
trainer that will find it very hard to walk away for good. Until then we’ll
probably find him still doing what he does best. And more importantly, as we
saw this weekend, he’ll also be making sure that we don’t count him out, at
least not yet.