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Breeders' Cup 2017

D. Wayne Lukas is on the Move

What 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.


Getting 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.
Back 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.
The 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.
It 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.
It 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.  
As 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 for Lukas.
You 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 fame trainer.
In 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.
D. 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.
This 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. 


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Older Comments about D. Wayne Lukas is on the Move...

A very well written article. Good luck to D. Wayne Lukas.
Lukas, is always dangerous if he has a decent horse.
It's difficult to know how this may play out for Lukas and these colts. Oxbow, so far okay; Titletown Five has had to be out due to a knee chip (up to 90 days); and Will Take Charge is by Unbridled's Song. I'm going to watch their progress guardedly. http://www.allhorseracing.ag/kentucky-derby/contenders/injury-report
Get out the breeding agreements and the horse van...Many will be heading for a premature retirement to the breeding shed under this fellow's care.
D Wayne hasnt let his best horse run yet . Titletownfive. This is the one to watch
Darrell Wayne not Dwayne
my derby pic may be....WTC
Lets go Dwayne!!! All the way in 2013 !! haha
he will be in every major stake until the derby with these 2 and the derby,but which one will last
Now when will he break this one down???
Having D. Wayne in the mix just makes it that much more interesting!
Nice article. I thought one thing that was very peculiar, that during the '90's, Baffert/Lukas dominated with five wins. Of those five wins, four times a stablemate ran third in the Ky Derby. '95-Thunder Gulch/Timber Country; '96-Grindstone/Prince of Thieves; '98-Real Quiet/Indian Charlie; '99-Charismatic/Cat Thief. Although this is hindsight, wouldn't it have been nice to play Ky Derby trifectas, keying the 1st and 3rd slot with their horses, and all in the 2nd slot? Oh well, back to reality.
He's due for a good trip this year, right TV? ;-)
great article loved reading it

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