the amazing wayne lukas wins the preakness again

By Dick Jerardi

Wayne Lukas won his first Preakness 44 years ago, or in his case, half a lifetime ago. So why wouldn’t he win the Preakness for a seventh time with a 9-1 shot who did not get enough qualifying points to run in the Kentucky Derby? On a gray, drizzly Saturday at old Pimlico, a year from a wrecking ball after Preakness 150 next May, Lukas sent Seize the Grey to the track seeking what seemed like his millionth Grade I win with a jockey, Jaime Torres, seeking his first. The young jockey put Seize the Grey on the lead and nobody could catch them, not Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan (second) or Louisiana Derby winner Catching Freedom (third).

Lukas, the 88-year-old horse racing legend, is already talking about his 2-year-olds getting ready for the 2025 Triple Crown season. No matter what has happened or might happen, Lukas remains one of the most optimistic people on earth. He walks with a cane now, but he still gets up on his pony every day to watch training. And he is absolutely certain he is going to win the next race, be it the Preakness or the first half of the daily double.

When so many others in the sport these days say stop, Lukas says go. So two weeks after Just Steel finished 17th in the Derby a few hours after Seize the Grey won the Pat Day Mile on the Derby Day Card, Lukas had 25 percent of the Preakness field. When so many would have replaced Torres with a more experienced rider, Lukas did not listen to all the calls from all those agents. When so many would have said goodbye to the sport long ago, Lukas says he will never retire. Why would he?

It was 2015, a few weeks after he turned 80 that Lukas failed to show up at Parx to saddle his horses on a Saturday in the track’s signature races – the Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion. When word began to spread that Lukas was having serious medical issues and that he planned to deal with them by getting on the van with the horses on the way back to Louisville, Ky. the next day, EMTs were summoned and detected a low heart rate. It was strongly suggested he let them take him to a nearby hospital. Thankfully, he agreed.

The next day, during my visit to Aria Health (Torresdale Campus), Lukas said he had been feeling “tired, light-headed, nauseous” and “dizzy if he stood up” Friday. It got even worse Saturday when it was eventually discovered he had several blockages that required a few stents.

Who knows what happens if he doesn’t go to the hospital? Lukas said he had not seen a doctor in 60 years. Providentially, he saw some doctors that Pa. Derby Day night.

And here the man is again – back atop the sport he ruled for the 1980s and 1990s, winning six consecutive Triple Crown races at one point with four different horses from 1994 to 1996. It really seemed over for Lukas when he won just three graded stakes races from 2014-2022. In a miraculous Second Act, he has now won nine graded stakes in the last three years, including the 2022 Kentucky Oaks with Secret Oath and this Preakness, each with offspring of the mighty Arrogate whose four-race series of races (Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus, Dubai World Cup) is the best of the 21st Century.

Arrogate, of course, was trained by Lukas’s good friend Bob Baffert. Each emerged from the Quarter Horse world to dominate top class thoroughbred dirt racing for more than four decades now, Baffert taking over for Lukas in the late 1990s and all of the 2000s.

Lukas had won more Triple Crown races than anybody until Baffert’s Triple Crown binge in 2015 and 2018. They have won 32 TC races between them, 17 for Baffert, 15 for Lukas. It’s not likely anybody will ever come close to them as the only comparison to them is them.

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