Photo: Oaklawn Park
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is a student of racing history,
necessarily as an author of so much of it, and is very excited as he
sends out horses for owner Brad Kelley under his newly transferred
banner of Calumet Farm.
Beginning Thursday, with Wine Glow in the seventh race, Kelley’s
horses will now be listed as racing for the legendary Lexington,
Kentucky stud. Kelley, who previously raced as Bluegrass Hall, was part
of an investment group that purchased Calumet in May 2012 and Kelley
leases the name and facility for his extensive breeding operation.
Through the middle of the 20th Century, Calumet Farm was
synonymous with champions, from Citation through Alydar, many of which
ran at Oaklawn. Of the 20 named barns at Oaklawn, four honor Calumet
horses - Citation, Alydar, Davona Dale and Coaltown.
Lukas revolutionized racing beginning in the early 1980s and
dominated the sport’s major events for more than two decades. Through
mismanagement and fraud, the farm fell on hard times and lost its place
among major operations. Lukas saw his spot at the pinnacle usurped in
recent seasons (often by trainers he developed as assistants), but
several important stakes wins this year and Kelley’s considerable
commitments have the 77-year-old trainer looking forward to regular
returns to the top.
“There’s such a tradition associated with the name and it has had
such an impact on the sport over the years,” Lukas said. “[Kelley’s]
program is a top-to-bottom plan from the studs to the broodmares to the
yearlings. We already have some great opportunities here under the roof,
but based on the way he’s going about it, we should have every
opportunity to take it to the next level and have some fun for the next
Lukas played a role in the last bits of glory for Calumet, training
Criminal Type to a Horse of the Year title in 1990 – the last champion
to race in Calumet’s original “devil red and blue” silks. Those colors
were purchased by the Brazilian racing group Stud TNT and Kelley will
continue to be represented by his black silks with gold chevrons.
“We had some really good luck training for them there at the end,”
said Lukas. “I helped them get breeder of the year and horse of the year
the last time, so it has really come full circle for me personally. I’m
really looking forward to the chance to develop the same thing for the
Recent stakes wins by Calumet runners Optimizer and Oxbow show Lukas
is well on his way to making the most of that chance. Optimizer, who was
second in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn last year, recently won a
stakes on grass at the Fair Grounds. Oxbow, who trains in Hot Springs,
is pointing toward the Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans after taking the
LeComte Stakes there Jan. 19.
“Oxbow is just super right now,” said Lukas. “He’s really an amazing horse with the way he trains.”
Lukas can also count another Hall of Famer as a client as retired
football coach Bill Parcells was announced last weekend as an inductee
into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I had a great talk with him Monday,” said Lukas. “Late in his
career, when he was hired by the Cowboys, he told me the thing he was
going to miss most about going back to coaching was summers at Saratoga.
He said the same thing last year when the Saints took a run at him. He
loves his racing. I told him I really hope I can get away from Saratoga
for his induction. I really want to be there. He’s a special guy.”
Lukas’s connections to legendary sports figures also include famed
Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis. Both are part-owners of
Titletown Five, a 3-year-old colt who returned to the workout tab
Sunday for the first time since a dynamic win last October and
subsequent minor knee surgery.
“He’s been galloping beautifully and he looked wonderful working the
other morning,” said Lukas. “We are playing catch up. We know that. But
it’s been my experience that horses with that kind of talent, it doesn’t
take them as long to get back where they were. Horses without that kind
of talent you have to work on and work on, but he’s got that gift. So,
we are obviously coming along late to the party, but we are looking at
mid-March and seeing where we are at. If he can come back to his form,
he’s going to be something special.”