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Horse Racing Veterans Turn Back the Clock

Age discrimination may not be a factor in the Triple Crown this year. Consider that 77-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has at least two major players for the May 4 Kentucky Derby in Will Take Charge and Oxbow, one-two in last Saturday’s Rebel Stakes.

Factor in that 50-year-old Gary Stevens was set to ride Titletown Five for Lukas in the Sunland Park Derby Sunday until a late change in plans ticketed the colt for the Louisiana Derby on March 30, and there’s every chance Senior Citizens will be front and center as the Triple Crown race ensues. Stevens rides in Dubai on March 30.

Lukas sent out Will Take Charge and Oxbow to run first and second in a major Kentucky Derby steppingstone, the Rebel Stakes. Will Take Charge was ridden by 52-year-old Jon Court, and Oxbow was piloted by 47-year-old Mike Smith.

“Edgar Prado’s doing well on the East Coast,” Stevens said of the 45-year-old jockey, winner of more than 6,400 races, including the 2003 Kentucky Derby on Barbaro. “And I think that people forget that Eddie D. and Shoe and Laffit, they rode into their mid-50s, and they were as good as there was in the game when they walked away.

“Shoe didn’t ride as many, by choice, but when you put those zeroes behind the dollar sign, they were no different at the end of their career than were in their heyday.

“Lukas is no exception. He’s got a barnful of good 3-year-olds right now, and everybody knows he knows how to get them there. He’s proving it once again.”

Lukas, who called Santa Anita his home base for years before moving East several years ago, goes way back with Stevens, himself a fixture in the Southern California riding colony for a quarter century.

Among their countless stakes victories together were the 1988 Kentucky Derby with Winning Colors and the 1995 Run for the Roses with Thunder Gulch.

For added flavor, Bill Shoemaker (1951), Laffit Pincay Jr. (1970), Eddie Delahoussaye (1981), Gary Stevens (1996), Mike Smith (2000), Edgar Prado (2003) and Jon Court (2007) are all winners of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, honoring riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and Thoroughbred racing.

Proof that character counts and that you’re never too old.

 

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