Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Should Lukas be up for more than an Award of Merit?

Wayne Lukas and Oxbow.
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club


Winners of the 2013 Eclipse Award will not be announced until Saturday evening, but we already know that D. Wayne Lukas will be walking out with a trophy. The Hall of Fame trainer will be presented the Eclipse Award of Merit. Certainly it is a fitting honor for the 78-year-old trainer, but I have to wonder if he should not also be in the main race as well. Not surprisingly, as the top two trainers by earnings, Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert are Eclipse Award finalists. The earnings list has more often than not been the deciding factor for honoring America’s top trainer.  

In ten consecutive years, between 2001-2010, the trainer that won the most money on the track was awarded the Eclipse for Outstanding trainer. Finally, in 2011, Bill Mott broke that streak, winning the award while only managing to finish fourth on the earnings list. In 2012, Dale Romans repeated the feat, by finishing fourth in earnings, and collecting the Eclipse Award. Mott and Romans likely both clinched their awards through big wins at the Breeders’ Cup.

For 2013, the third finalist for Outstanding Trainer is Bill Mott, who finished fifth in the earnings list. Taking nothing away from Mott, who had another outstanding year, but with no wins in either the Breeders’ Cup or the Triple Crown, it is hard to imagine him taking home the hardware this year. D. Wayne Lukas, on the other hand, may have been a more interesting candidate in 2013.

Working with a much smaller stable than Baffert, Mott, and especially Pletcher, Lukas was front and center for America’s biggest races this year. In only 283 starts, compared to Pletcher (946), Mott (612), and Baffert (570), Lukas was able to take a couple of colts, in Will Take Charge and Oxbow, to the pinnacle of the sport. Who could have guessed that at the beginning of the year?

In the spring, the game little Oxbow chased a way too fast pace in the Kentucky Derby, but came back to win the Preakness, and run second in the Belmont. The Preakness win put Lukas back into the spotlight for the first time in years, but it would be the ‘other’ colt, though, that would go on to accomplish even more.


Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones, Rebel, Travers, Pennsylvania Derby, and Clark Handicap will be named 3yo Male Champion in a few days, but perhaps that agonizingly close loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic cost him a whole lot more. Imagine, if you will, that he did get his nose down on the wire in America’s richest race. Horse of the Year could well be his, and for Lukas, I have to believe that, at the very least, he would be a finalist, if not in with a real chance to win his first Eclipse Award in 19 years.

Throw in top two-year-old, Strong Mandate, and the two-time graded stakes winner on turf, Optimizer, and you’d have to say that old D. Wayne had an awfully impressive year for a trainer thought to be past his prime, while working with a stable much smaller than the trainers who are Eclipse Award finalists. 

In the end, the honor will likely go to Pletcher for a sixth time. After all, he did run away with the all important earnings title. Or should I say, the all too important earnings title. It would seem money isn’t everything, unless you are a human trying to win an Eclipse Award. 


comments powered by Disqus

Older Comments about Should Lukas be up for more than an Award of Merit?...

The litany of complaints regarding Lukas breakdowns goes on ad infinitum, but he seems not to learn from past occurrences; that, to me, is a central problem. Had he incorporated past mistakes into his thought process, we would never have heard him say, "Gary was just over-reacting," when Oxbow was pulled up, never to be seen again on the track, in 2013. I think the Award of Merit is a nice gesture and quite sufficient for Lukas.
it's in the Archives.
to substantate an assertion requires evidence or it is simply isolated observation. Multiple episodes of the same behavior suggests long term constancy of intent
ad nauseum.
Don't know how often I hear it...To paraphrase. "all I can remember about him was that poor over-raced Lady's Secret bolting to the outside fence. EVERYONE knew she was screaming for a rest, Everyone that is but the egomaniacal ass."
Lukas had a great year. Would I vote for him over Pletcher? No. Would I vote for him over Baffert? Yes.
I appreciate your comments vic. It seems time out of the spotlight has shed a haze of misguided nostalgia over the Lukas. Just because he's old and had success means that how achieved that success should be forgotten.
All so he can brandish those false teeth to the crowd. This guy shuld be given an award for CLOWN of the century with a subtitle of purveor of mass extinction of the healthy horse.
the REAL world starts right outside your door and will remain there no matter what flights of fantasy one substitutes for it.
Timber Country gone. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/18/sports/horse-racing-leg-injury-retires-timber-country.html
the best trainers, overall, are claiming trainers. They are horsemen, they know the difference between a mistaken training program and a nasty injury that is un-repairable. They are conservative in understanding what these spindly legs can handle, they don't depend solely on medication and often use "tincture" of time to keep their charges going. My mentor was such a trainer and taught me the difference long ago.
He definitely should have been nominated. And I do not believe that the highest earnings should ensure an award....it should be for most outstanding accomplishments.
disregarding facts and substituing them for fantasy is a regular aspcet of the majrity of the young ignorant poster
my mind just blurs out everyting travel vic says now and it makes me feel 100% better. YAYAY
Azeri and Steinlen were the ones I could not recall in the previous post
ever noticed HOW FEW horse survive him? His older charges, Criminal Type, the good mare that the lady trainer gave up to him, and the grass horse that he tried to make a dirt horse,cannot recall the name now, French and started with an S.............His attempt to make a sikl purse out of a sow's ear with that pitiful animal Mine that Bird was classic "get my name in the papers at all costs" Lukas
Candy coated bio..http://www.amazon.ca/D-Wayne-High-Rolling-Americas-Premier/dp/product-description/0071387374
Tabasco Cat, Flanders, Union CIty, Charismatic, Lay's Secret, Saratoga Six, Grindstone, and on and on and on. RUN INTO THE GROUND
Following the old clown since he was a star in the comission reports on Monday with drug positives at Los Alamitos. This was before the teeth were capped. Then there is the regular array of questionable drug viotlations. Remind me, didn't this good filly break down not long after this article appeared in the LA Times?? http://articles.latimes.com/1994-09-30/sports/sp-44916_1_d-wayne-lukas
I think what Lukas did last year was truly awesome. I wasn't in the game when he was on top, but I know the history. It's nice to see someone get to the top again, very inspiring.

Related Pages

      Connect With Brian

Me On Facebook
Follow Me On Twitter


 ZATT's Star of the Week 

Limousine Liberal

Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


Related Stories

Best of the Blogs

Top Stories