The Lukas Legend Continues

Wayne Lukas was in his office the morning after Will Take Charge's victory in the 144th Travers Stakes. Watching his every move with attentive and loving eyes was his Australian Shepherd Boomer, whose father won Best of Breed at Westminster.

Whether it is dogs, clothing, women, or gardening and landscaping, Lukas has always surrounded himself with nothing but the best. But what he takes pride in most of all is his ability to teach - people, horses, or dogs.

"Watch this," Lukas said. "Boomer, stay." Boomer quickly went down on his belly and lay on the floor motionless.

"Now call him," Lukas said. "Here, boomer; come here, Boomer." Nothing. Boomer would not budge no matter how many times we called him. Then Lukas in a low, calm voice said, "Okay," and Boomer came running over to us.

This was vintage Lukas, who reads animals as well as anyone and has perfected a lifetime of teaching skills in dealing with them and teaching them.

He sure knows how to read Will Take Charge, just as he knew how to read Oxbow earlier in the year before the colt was sidelined with an injury.

Oxbow was always the All-American kid who was a great athlete and a tough, hard-nosed competitor. Will Take Charge was the big awkward kid who had great ability, but often was clumsy, stumbling over his own feet. He did have his good days, such as the time he ran down Oxbow at the wire to win the Rebel Stakes at odds of 28-1.

Lukas knew it was only time before he grew into himself and matured both physically and mentally and put it all together on a consistent basis. It looked as if it were going to happen in the Kentucky Derby when the big chestnut rallied stride for stride with eventual winner Orb, only to run smack into a retreating Verrazano. Once a big, long-striding colt gets stopped it is almost impossible to get him going again and Will Take Charge wound up finishing eighth.

Two dismal and inexplicable performances followed in the Preakness and Belmont and it was back to square one for Lukas. He gave the son of Unbridled's Song a couple of months off and went into teaching mode. Returning in the Jim Dandy Stakes, Will Take Charge, like Boomer, came running when Lukas gave him the command, and he finished a fast-closing second to Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in a snappy 1:47 1/5 for the 1 1/8 miles. Now it was important he come back and duplicate that effort.

If Lukas' teaching was to have any effect, it would be demonstrated in the Travers Stakes, which many felt would decide the 3-year-old championship among Palace Malice, Verrazano, and Orb. Oxbow's injury had pretty much eliminated him from consideration, and it was up to Will Take Charge to fill the void left by the Preakness winner's injury.

After four decades, Lukas still is like a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out gold and silver. His museum-sized trophy room is proof of that. Could the 77-year-old Hall of Famer actually wind up with a Preakness winner and a Travers winner in the same year, just as he supposedly was fading into the twilight of his career?

Hotwalker Freddie Johnson certainly thought so after Will Take Charge finished up his training two days before the Travers and Lukas said to him, "Freddie, be careful with him; he's ready. Nobody touch him but you, OK? He's going so good right now, watch him real good. Let him go out there and graze."

The next morning, Johnson got him out at a quarter to five before anyone else. As Lukas was about to go out with the first set, Johnson said to him, "He really dragged me around there. I gave him about 30 minutes of grazing and he's real happy. One more day, boss...one more day."

The following day, around 6:30 p.m., Johnson was celebrating Will Take Charge's thrilling Travers victory in the Director's Room with Lukas and owner Willis Horton and watching the replay of the colt's stirring last-second surge in the shadow of the wire.

It was if he were watching the race live all over again. As Luis Saez grabbed hold of Will Take Charge and quickly steered him to the outside, the colt saw daylight and kicked into another gear. Winning still looked hopeless, as the pace-setting Moreno was still running on strongly, but Will Take Charge's surge in the final yards was something to see.

"Dig, son...dig, son...dig, son," Johnson pleaded, even knowing the result. It was that exciting and improbable a finish.

Lukas had won his third Travers, the last coming 18 years ago with Thunder Gulch, and was basking in his second national spotlight in the last three months. Earlier in the year, he had been content merely to have his 40-horse stable at Oaklawn Park and enjoy the camaraderie with his fellow trainers and the local townspeople.

"I would leave day passes at the dry cleaners, and when I tipped waitresses I'd also leave them four day passes," Lukas said. "I would take the kids out there with me to the winner's circle every time I won. If I was 3-2 or 5-2, all the parents would head down to the gap near the winner's circle with their kids. Hell, I could have run for mayor down there."

Lukas is more at peace with himself these days and loves sharing special times with his fiancée Laurie Krause.

It was a different story back in the 1990s when Lukas had to endure potshots taken at him from all directions. One in particular was the time he was called a marketer in the Louisville Courier-Journal, with quotes from several of his peers.

Lukas went out and won the Kentucky Derby that same week with Grindstone, but that article still had left its scars.

He arrived at the barn at dawn the morning after the Derby and finally let his feelings pour out.

"What did I ever do to deserve this?" he said. "The quotes they got were very unkind and some of the people who were quoted swore to me they never said it. I really had to bite my tongue at the press conference in respect to Mr. Young (Grindstone's owner William T. Young). I stand out here for four or five hours a day and try to do my job, and they've got me as some Barnum-and-Bailey guy that doesn't know a thing about a horse.

"I can't be somebody I'm not. Am I supposed to come here and wear a different type of clothes and change my whole makeup? I'm not supposed to be competent? I'm not supposed to be a good speaker? If a guy wants to put my name on a label of clothing, I should say 'no' because I'm a horse trainer? The quotes from the other trainers were very damaging, and I'm having trouble handling that. I've had an education and I've coached, so my background is different than a lot of horse trainers. I'm proud of my staff and I'm proud of what we've done. That's what we are; deal with it. If that offends you and you think I'm obnoxious, just say, 'I don't like that guy's personality.' But don't just keep hammering us all the time."

Contrary to what has been written about him over the years, everyone who has worked for Lukas has marveled at his horsemanship and how he can get inside a horse's head. You have to be a pretty good teacher to send out pupils such as Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart, Mike Maker, Mark Hennig, Randy Bradshaw, George Weaver, and Bobby Barnett.

At age 77, Lukas still is as dapper as ever; still looks as cool with shades as anyone; still is a master motivational speaker, and is as articulate and witty as ever. And he still loves his friendly sparring with the media. ("I want to thank all the reporters for leaving me alone all week," he said following the Travers).

But this is not the same old Lukas. It has taken a downsizing from his once powerful dynasty and a more serene outlook on life in general to turn him into a happy person who loves what he's doing more than he ever has.

"I'm really comfortable where I'm at," Lukas said. "I don't get up every morning trying to prove I can train a racehorse anymore. Whatever legacy we've developed, so be it. I'm enjoying it more than I ever did. I love working with horses, especially these kind. When you're younger you think you have to prove to yourself, your colleagues and the public that you can train a racehorse. I don't feel that anymore. I can go over there and get my ass kicked on Saturday and I'll be comfortable or I can win it and I'll be comfortable, too, that I did the right thing."

After several marriages, Lukas realizes how difficult it is to make a total commitment to two loves.

"If you're going to do this, maybe you shouldn't consider having too much of a social life; that you're going to do it right," he said. "I think my intensity factor gets in the way a little bit. I married these horses a long time ago. I thought I could get a relationship to blend in with that, but it's pretty damn tough. After a while when you go seven or eight years and don't take a day off and you get up at 3:30 every morning, they start questioning that, and rightly so. I blame myself for all of it."

But there is no doubt he has a special relationship with Laurie, and that the two care deeply for each other.

Lukas has indeed mellowed and enjoys mentoring young rival trainers, something he never would have done years ago. When he loses he now can be happy for others.

"I'm not saying I'm complacent, but I handle it a little better, and I handle losing better, too," he said. "I feel and obligation and a responsibility at my age to help young trainers, and I'm real open to sharing this now. When I was 50 I wouldn't do that. Now I take great pride in being able to give back a little.

"I don't jump in the air and praise the American flag and my mother and apple pie when they cross the finish line. I enjoy it in a more subtle way. The satisfaction of winning is always going to drive you whether you show it outwardly or inwardly. And there is still that personal satisfaction of achieving something nobody else has. I shared a record with a very special person (Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons) in the Thoroughbred industry and now I have the record for most Triple Crown wins by myself. But that's not the record I want. (Fitzsimmons) won a Preakness at age 82. That's the record I want."

If there is anything he would change with the course his life has taken it would be to share everything with the one person who was the backbone of the operation for so many years.

"I'd like Jeff with me for the ride," he said. His son Jeff, of course, suffered a near-fatal brain injury at Santa Anita in December of 1993 when he was run down by Tabasco Cat, who had gotten loose outside the barn.

Today, Jeff, has settled into his new life in Atoka, Oklahoma, where he works for a bank.

"Jeff accepts the cards he was dealt," Lukas said. "But he's doing really well. He lives through his children. His son graduated from the Air force Academy with honors this year, and his daughter is on a soccer scholarship in Califiornia. He still follows racing closely. Ask him about the LeComte and he'll rattle off the splits for you."

The extreme downsizing of the Lukas empire has been due mainly to the deaths of his main clients, such as Gene Klein, William T. Young, and Bob Lewis. He also lost Prince Ahmed Salman of the Thoroughbred Corp, for whom he saddled a number of top-class horses.

"You don't replace those guys," Lukas said. "You've got to build it back up from scratch."

That is why Will Take Charge's Travers victory was so special to him after being reunited last year with the colt's owner Willis Horton.

"I left Wayne for 20 years and had several trainers during that time," the 73-year-old Horton said. "Last year, I knew I had the good stock and I knew he had the knowledge, and he's a workaholic. He don't let anything keep him from his horses. When I called him and told him I was going to turn my horses over to him, he was in a horse van coming back from Saratoga. He was in the truck with the horses and I asked him if he wanted to train my horses, and he said, 'Sure, I want to train them.' I said, 'Well, when you get to Churchill Downs I'll have them over at your barn."

One of Horton's horses who was waiting for him was a large, growthy chestnut son of Unbridled's Song, out $2.4 million earner Take Charge Lady, by Dehere, who Horton had purchased at the previous year's Keeneland Fall yearling sale for $425,000.

A year later, he was a Travers winner. "Three strides from the wire, the only thing I thought of was Willis and his wife," Lukas said. "I've been blessed so much in my career with so many nice horses and with some beautiful clients down through the years. I've lost some of them in the recent years, but I always feel like on these particular days -- Belmonts, Preaknesses, whatever -- it's the most wonderful feeling to be able to give somebody who put up his money, stayed by you, and believed in you, that special moment.  I really mean that sincerely."

Another amazing aspect of Will Take Charge's victory is that Unbridled's Song died in late July. Three weeks later, bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, the man who bought Unbridled's Song for Ernie Paragallo, also died. Then Unbridled's Song sires the winner of the Travers Stakes a week later. Earlier in the meet, Unbridled's Song's son, Cross Traffic, won the Whitney.

Will Take Charge showed that he has indeed come of age with closing fractions of :23 4/5 and :24 2/5 that were impressive even with the surprisingly slow pace.

As Lukas made his way to the track, Marylou Whitney's husband John Hendrickson said to him, "You ain't dead yet."

Walking to the interview tent near the jockeys quarters, a cacophony of congratulations engulfed Lukas, as fans shouted, "D. Wayne, we love you" and "Wayne, you're awesome." They even echoed Hendrickson: "Wayne, you ain't dead yet."

According to assistant Sebastian (Bass) Nicholl, Will Take Charge was full of himself coming back to the barn and he was still bright and alert and feisty the following morning.

Nicholl, a native of England, discussed the tight-knit family that is so important to any operation.

"Although their horses were rivals, Oxbow's groom was celebrating with Will Take Charge's groom," he said. "Through all the big races, both grooms have been happy for each other. It's just a lovely teamwork we have here; great camaraderie. Most of them have been with Wayne for a long time."

Lukas, who is not exactly a party animal, originally intended to just go back home and have his usual chocolate milk and cheeseburger, but decided to take Laurie out and celebrate.

"We went to the Wishing Well and it was packed," Lukas said. "I told the gal, 'I hope we don't put you on the spot here, we don't mind waiting.' She said, 'Absolutely not, Mr. Lukas, we'll get a table ready for you right away. I was kind of embarrassed because I heard one guy say there was an hour and 40-minute wait. We go down those few steps leading into the dining room and everyone in there stood and applauded."

The broad smile on Lukas' face as he related the incident told the story. Lukas owned the town of Saratoga. He was back atop the racing world.

It was just like old times.

63 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Your Only Friend

Great article......remember him  running Quarter horses at Park Jefferson back in sixties...I was the track announcer.

26 Aug 2013 5:42 PM
Fran

Article is great!  Have to respect a man who does it his way with few regrets!  Congrats to an awesome trainer!

26 Aug 2013 6:27 PM
RajahsMom

I'm so happy for Wayne, it's time for the classic horsemen to take their rightful place at the top of the game where they belong! When it comes down to a dogfight, my money is on him every time! He's earned my respect beginning with Terlingua and Slew's baby girl, Landaluce. And for him not to have Tabasco Cat put down, showed what kind of man/trainer he is. For those who denigrated him, yet tried to emulate him and they know who they are: they're not worthy to carry his sunglasses! Go on Wayne, do what you do best, there's not many like you left in the horse racing profession! And if I were one of those young trainers coming up, I would be honored to learn from one of the best that ever trained and raced a horse. So don't plan on leaving us to soon, you and Jeff still have a lot to teach!

26 Aug 2013 6:28 PM
Cassandra.Says

Nice job -- it gets harder to summarize someone's life as they hit D. Wayne's age and are still firing.

All I really missed was "D. Wayne off the plane" and D. Wayne's almost psychic ability to choose a yearling. Winning Colors walking out of the sales barn gave him the shivers.

It ain't bragging if you back it up.

26 Aug 2013 6:42 PM
Kimmons Mitchell

Steve it just does not get any better! You style of writing and the attention to detail, which is what drives the story to me.It is an old style of writing that has been lost with time. Such a Great Story about the Coach and I know he has enjoyed every word as I have.This is one of the best things about horse racing the history the horses and story of the game and the colorful people involved.. Thanks again for the Great story!

26 Aug 2013 6:49 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

If the Jim Dandy a nother furlong--Will Take Charge would have won. I thought he was closing fastest of the first two horses. Yes, I had him in my picks bu left Palace Malice out.

I was disapointed in the early fractions--24/48--thats workout time. Not race time for this quality of horses.

Congradulations to D.Wayne Lucas.

Another Senior Citizen

26 Aug 2013 6:52 PM
Saratoga AJ

Opening day at Saratoga, I squeezed on the elevator in the clubhouse on my way to my upstairs seat a half hour before the first race . I thought I'd be the last one on that absolutely packed elevator car, when one more well dressed man my height squeezed in just before the doors closed. And I found myself face to face with D. Wayne Lukas. Not knowing what to say I just blurted him "D. Wayne, how does it feel to be back on top" aluding to his Preakness win. He smiled and said "yes, back on top. Wonderful, just wonderful". And I wished him good luck as we exited.  I bet he felt a Hell of  a lot more wonderful early Saturday evening!

I know I did...had a $20 win on Will Take Charge. Thanks D Wayne!

26 Aug 2013 7:06 PM
Saratoga AJ

It must be old timers week. First D. Wayne Saturday, and today the great 84 year old trainer H. Allen Jerkens won the featured Saratoga Dew Stakes with Go Unbridled.

That's about 120 years of experience!

26 Aug 2013 7:11 PM
Ranagulzion

This was very enjoyable to read. Heartiest congratulations to an icon of american thoroughbred racing. D Wayne Lukas is such a colourful character ...always great for the sport.

26 Aug 2013 7:25 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

What does a man eat for dinner to celebrate his first Travers win in 18 years, a man who was once considered to be the top trainer in the game before being knocked down and nearly counted out only to spring back up off of the canvas, shake off the cobwebs, and then KO the youngsters with the old one-two, left, right, delivered with authority in two of the biggest races of the year?

26 Aug 2013 7:32 PM
The Deacon

It's guys like Lukas who made this sport great. This industry has had it's characters over the years.

Love them or hate them but most are polarizing figures, larger then life.

I'll take Lucas, Whittingham, Baffert, Nerud, Jolly, Stephens, McGaughey, Maloney, Wheeler, Van Berg, McAnally, Whiteley, and a few others over anyone.

Think about this, to put Luis Saez a little known rider on a horse for the 1st time in such a big race takes guts and knowledge.

I remember briefly meeting him at Hollywood Park back when Landaluce was winning by wide margins. He truly felt she would be one of the greatest.

Excellent article Steve, thanks for sharing............

26 Aug 2013 9:17 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

Wonderful piece Steve. Am posting it on my Facebook page.  Hope it gets much wider coverage.  Another periodical or paper maybe?  Keep it up...please.

26 Aug 2013 9:20 PM
RajahsMom

Dr. D, anything he wants! Maybe a  cheeseburger and a chocolate milk...teeee heeee!

26 Aug 2013 10:36 PM
sysonby

Sorry that I couldn't be at Saratoga for the Travers...But given the choice I would rather have been at the restaurant to be part of the spontaneous ovation

27 Aug 2013 12:45 AM
Laura Pinelli

A rebuttal to the comment about the work ethic being the cause of the divorces. I cannot speak for those before me but I will speak for myself. I was the last wife and the divorce had not one thing to do with the work ethics. I trained horses as well and in addition worked in the office. I do not want to be perceived as some ungrateful person who resented a hard working man. There is more to it than that.

27 Aug 2013 2:49 AM
Joey D

Steve,

Thank you for the gift of your writing. The article on D Wayne should be nominated for an Eclipse Award.

27 Aug 2013 6:35 AM
Kelso1966

Steve, great story, brought a tear to my eye I have to admit-

27 Aug 2013 8:02 AM
Bethany Loftis

Thanks so much for another wonderful tribute to a great horseman! It would be absolutely amazing to learn from a master like Lucas! It was so nice to see Will Take Charge finally break through and put it all together. I know a few of us predicted he would get better with time and age, and hopefully the Traver's was indicative of good things to come! Congratulations D. Wayne Lucas and Will Take Charge! We'll keep seeing you in the winner's circle!

27 Aug 2013 8:27 AM
Pedigree Ann

Rajah's Mom -

Tabasco Cat was not Lukas's property; he belonged to Overbrook Farm and David Reynolds. Lukas had no say in what happened to the horse after the accident. And it was an accident - panicked horse running away from perceived danger, does not notice Jeff step out to grab him and knocks him down. I would have understood if D. Wayne had asked for him to be sent to another trainer, but taking or sparing Tabasco Cat's life was not his call. No credit reflects on him for the horse's survival.

I'm afraid I remember too much of the other Lukas to sing his praises. The one who ran Lady's Secret too long after she had soured on racing. The one who sent Going Wild into the Derby AND Preakness to be trounced after the colt had stopped as if poleaxed at the half-mile pole of the Wood Memorial. Maybe you don't remember how many of his good or promising horses broke down, but I do (I'm over 60, you see). Viewing history and seeing only the high-points is a common occurrence, I know. Just don't forget the rest of the story.

27 Aug 2013 9:29 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

RajahsMom

   Yes, that's as good as anything. Or how about a double cheesburger with a chocolate malt, and they bring him the large metal container full of chocolate malt along with the glass so he can pour himself seconds and thirds like in the old days at The Malt Shop Did he have dessert?

27 Aug 2013 10:02 AM
Jackie WV

As usual Steve, GREAT article!! Wayne has always been one of my favorite trainers, but I always refer to him as my "favorite cowboy".  I finally got to meet him a few weeks ago on the Oklahoma Training track.  It was 5:30 a.m. and he was leading Oxbow to the track when I introduced myself.  He was so nice to a "horse crazy" stranger. Later in the day he was kind enough to let me and my friends take some pictures with him.

I put all my money on Will Take Charge and won big......well, big for a small timer like me.  I was jumping up and down and screaming my head off when the big chestnut was coming down the stretch.  My 4 year old granddaughter was starring at me with wide eyes and an open mouth. I'm pretty sure she thought I had lost my mind, but when I picked her up and swung her around laughing, she started laughing too.  

Congratulations to Wayne.....my favorite cowboy. He deserves it!  And, thank you Steve for the story!!

27 Aug 2013 10:22 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Laura Penelli

   I liked your comment. This is my opinion- It's almost a miracle for any relationship to really work out well. Parting of ways is often two good people, each with their own personalities and strong interests who just aren't really compatible. Neither did anything wrong especially when you take into account the extraordinary difficulty of long term success of two people who have other interests and needs that go beyond ONLY making a union work. We are always individuals first. If not then we are not being who we want to be.

27 Aug 2013 10:26 AM
RajahsMom

Pedigree Ann, Overbrook gave Wayne the choice of what to do with Tabasco Cat, as it was his son that was hanging between life and death, (see Inside Information- D Wayne Lukas). He not only opted to save the horse's life but to continue to train him! Not one of us here are saying he's a saint, but compared to some of the trainers racing today, he's a whole lot better!

27 Aug 2013 11:12 AM
steve from st louis

When I was "in the game" the two trainers who could best read, understand and use the condition book to their benefit were Wayne and Jeff Lukas. I'm convinced that was the main connection to their winning races. Of course, the conditions of the Travers are transparent but when applying the rest of his 40-horse stable, I can assure you no one comes to the Coach. As far as his adversarial reputation with the press, it reminds me of the clever remark attributed to golfer Nick Faldo after surprising everyone in one of his British Open wins: "I want to thank the press from the heart of my bottom." That sounds just like Lukas.

27 Aug 2013 11:15 AM
Deltalady

Great read, Steve.  Lukas is like fine wine...he has aged well and continues to mellow out.  He's hard not to like. He is a real Cowboy, in the true sense of the word. Like the Sinatra song, "He has done it his way!" and it has been an interesting trip down Lukas lane. And the story continues: He ain't dead yet!  

27 Aug 2013 11:18 AM
steve from st louis

I was remiss in forgetting something Lukas told me in Chicago when I asked about his success at picking yearlings years ago. He said "I look for the individual and fall in love with them before even knowing their breeding. That catalogue book just ends up costing you more money."

27 Aug 2013 11:21 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

A trainer's winning percentage says something but it isn't the most important barometer of a great trainer to me. Getting and keeping a horse healthy and happy and to a big race in top form, and winning it or coming very close is the best gauge to me. I don't know if Lukas' skills declined at all or if he just wasn't getting the horses during the cold period but whatever the reason, I think he is one of the great trainers again. There are other great trainers like Bill Mott but I think the three with the best chance of getting a Triple Crown which is ultimately the biggest dream of all of us are Lukas, Baffert and Pletcher. Go Paynter, Royal Delta, Wise Dan, Palace Malice, and a few others I'm keeping to myself. Until the BC I'll be on sabbatical unless there is an urgent response needed to a post today. See y'all then. Be safe, and congratulations again to Mr. Lukas who has worked very hard for avery long time and deserves to enjoy his time of glory.

27 Aug 2013 12:11 PM
smarie

Great article, Mr. Haskin. I am always glad to see D. Wayne Lukas in the winner's circle. Like him or not, you have to respect what he has accomplished in his career. I love when someone puts a microphone in front of him; he always has a great quip or two. I have never seen or heard him lash out at anyone publically. He carries himself well and keeps himself to as high a standard as he expects from those who work for him. I agree with Dr Drunkinbum - he has worked very hard for a very long time and deserves to enjoy his time of glory.

27 Aug 2013 1:46 PM
Laura Pinelli

Dr Drunkinbum -

Your comment is well taken. I become irritated reading time after time that same old statement about the work ethics being the reason for the divorce(s). It could easily be perceived that the wife did not work and became resentful. In my case that could not be any further from the truth. Work ethics were not the reason for the divorce in this case. Let's be honest.

27 Aug 2013 2:13 PM
Ted from LA

Dr. D,

Good luck in rehab.

I love you,

Ted from LA

27 Aug 2013 3:23 PM
Ted from LA

I sat in a third floor clubhouse box with D. Wayne during the Derby race several years ago.  He did not have a horse in it that year, and could not have been a nicer guy.  It turned out we had something in common, neither one of us belonged in the box we were in that day.

27 Aug 2013 3:45 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Laura Pinelli

   Yes. Or that the wife wasn't doing her duty to be good wife, or a good person allowing the man to do his job and being 100% supportive. Afterall, isn't the main goal to have a champion racehorse and everyone should set everything else aside in pursuit of that goal? I do believe that these are the types of perceptions that can come out of simple statements that are not meant to cause harm but are written or said to emphasize a work ethic but actually forget about the possible repercussions or feelings involved with others because the actual reality is far different. But I also feel that it doesn't matter why people split up, and we put far too much emphasis on why. It is what it is and no blame or reason is necessary especially since it is far more likely that people will spit up than stay together. (And more people should actually spit up than forcing staying together.) I totally understand your frustration with reading those statements. Have a great night !!!

27 Aug 2013 4:55 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Ted from LA

   I'm working hard on figuring out where to hide all of the half pints that you're going to smuggle in for me. I've already got 24 spaces all figured out. It should be a blast. Thanks my dear friend. The feeling is mutual. Don't be late, and don't spill the beans or there will be heck to pay when I get out. Can you make some bets for me at Belmont Park?

27 Aug 2013 5:00 PM
Bethany Loftis

Dr. D- have fun! We'll all miss you!!! Go to The Malt Shop on your hiatus and have some dessert!

27 Aug 2013 6:30 PM
Abigail Anderson

Hi Steve. I come from the "both/and" way of thinking, not the "either/or." And that applies to my appreciation for D. Wayne.

He's always been a controversial figure and you have to admire his tough skin as well as the job he's done with Will Take Charge. I knew when I saw this boy for the first time that he needed to grow into himself. But loving his dam, I knew he had the heart to win.

What's most wonderful for me in this article is to learn that, at 77, D. Wayne is still learning & growing. Very inspirational!

Thank you, Steve.

27 Aug 2013 6:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Bethany Loftis

   Thank you very much. I will go to The Malt Shop, read comic books, buy some baseball cards, mow the lawn with my push mower, ride the stationary bike and decompress and get some things done and declutter my brain. Read a book all the way through, rent about twenty movies, eat a lot of chocolate(including a frozen KitKat, I think it was Johnny that recommended it) and throw junk out and walk on the beach. Pull some weeds, try a new recipe. Work on some writings. I'll miss you too. I'm especially looking forward to the next Derby Dozen and Triple Crown run. It will be a fabulous year. Many trainers and jockeys are doing very well and poised to grab the Triple Crown. I expect a big turnout for the Derby Dozen, the greatest blog in the history of the world, and I won't be holding anything back. I will be back briefly for the BC, then back with a vengance for the Derby Dozen. Everyone take care of yourselves.

27 Aug 2013 7:18 PM
Paula Higgins

I like D. Wayne Lukas. Yes, I am sure he has made mistakes running a horse he shouldn't have when he was younger. But I believe that he understands horses and cares about his horses. Yes, he was flashy when he was younger but he also has a kind heart as evidenced when he takes the time to talk to the  racing fans or declined to have a horse put down that critically injured his son. I am happy for him. He has mellowed and he is in a happier place. To all of his ex-wives: marriage to someone like Mr. Lucas must have been challenging. He's one of those larger than life people and everything that implies. It is often hard to live in their orbit. On another note, I have a dog/puppy, Danny Higgins, who may just get a trip to visit Mr. Lucas. So far the only one being trained at our house are my husband and I. We do exactly what Danny wants us to.

27 Aug 2013 10:58 PM
Uncle Smiley

Steve,

You show D.Wayne as just as important at 77 years as he ever was.

It takes rare talent to do that nowadays. Trainer as well as Journalist.

Thanks for the perspective.

PS. Dr. D.  Do well.  

27 Aug 2013 11:18 PM
Davids

Warts and all, I think no one else has had a larger impact on US racing than DWL over the past 30 years. He arrived like a comet and is still a shooting star.

His early success was and is phenomenal.

28 Aug 2013 3:24 AM
Coldfacts

Mr. Lukas seems to be coming in from the cold. All should be happy for him as his BOW speaks for itself. In recent time he has been seen as an aging legend no more capable of competing with his younger compatriots. He had to find less glamorous tracks to ply his trade as his percentages declined in every category.

In recent years I have been critical of D Wayne's policy of over racing his youngsters. Many of these youngsters have been ruined by this policy. One would think that with age and experience  the folly of such a practice would be obvious. However, far too often having a starter in a particular race took precedence over wellbeing of many of his charges.

It also appears that over the years he became fixated with blinkers as just about every horse he sent out sported a pair. How can anyone forget his statement about Dublin? He declared the colt to be a blinkers horse despite the fact all his victories were achieved without them. Once they were affixed he never won another race and they were never removed.

I made some money on Will Take Charge when he won the Rebel at double digit odds. I subsequently made some favorable posts regarding his chances in the Derby. I was of the opinion then that the blinkers should have been removed. The colt had tactical speed and what purpose were they serving? How many stayers need blinkers?

Unbridled Elian, Dunkirk, Eight Bells, Cross Traffic, Graydar and Mission Impazible are some of Unbridled,s Song’s top racers and none wore blinkers. Is it any surprise that Will Take Charge is completely different horse without them?

The Breeder Cup Classics has been dominated by the Mr. Prospector sire in the last 6 years. WTC will be one of five horses from the line that is likely to be entered. The big chestnut will be my favorite to win and emulate another D Wayne chestnut that went the name Cat Thief.

I hope the post blinkers performances of WTC will remind Mr. Lukas that the head gear should base on need and should not be deemed necessary attire.

28 Aug 2013 9:43 AM
Deltalady

I notice from the comments that some find it necessary to list their particular nits to pick about Lukas. "When you climb the ladder of success, you expose the seat of your pants." Lukas' longevity in the sport and his unparalleled accomplishments practically guarantee there are some things to criticize. For all of that, he seems comfortable in his own skin, he's not afraid to confront his demons, and, his blemishes are few compared to his accomplishments and his many contributions in and out of the sport. To paraphrase Sam Peckinpah, he will arrive "justified" when it's all said and done. In the meantime, he sure is fun to watch!

28 Aug 2013 11:03 AM
mikepr60

Mr. Haskin. It's always interesting to read about a legend written by a legend. Thanks for a great read! Blessings to you and all at Bloodhorse.

28 Aug 2013 11:41 AM
MemoriesofPuchi

Thank you Steve for another absolutely excellent article. It truly expresses D. Wayne's passion for the sport, the horses, and the people.

Pedigree Ann - most of us remember those times but since then have moved on because we've seen D.Wayne move on, learn, and appreciate the horses even more. No great and successful personality comes without blemishes that they have learned from.

D.Wayne is the first trainer in the barns in the morning, not because somebody tells him to be, but because he wants to be there. He travels with his horses because he wants to, because he can now and he doesn't have to maintain an image.

Rajahsmom - thx for doing the research re Tabasco Cat and Jeff.

Coldfacts - not sure who you are, but it's unlikely that you are a trainer and have "a trophy room the size worthy of a museum", so it seems improbable that DWayne needs your advice and judgement on the use of blinkers. If you are a Hall of Fame horseman, my apologies in advance.

28 Aug 2013 12:05 PM
Love 'em all

What's four more years to Mr. Lukas, who just happens to celebrate his 78th b'day in 5 days [Sept. 2nd], to become that 82-year-old trainer like Mr. "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons and win another Preakness?  I'd say he's more than likely to get his wish ... the way that man looks and acts today!  Besides, horses don't care how old you are!  

Cheers to Mr. Lukas and to Will Take Charge winning the Travers!  I was rooting for WTC [my poll pick at another site] ... and because he was as close to Oxbow as I could get.  It really was WTC's time to get a break .... and show his stuff; he should be mighty proud.

Wonderful article, Mr. Haskin.

28 Aug 2013 12:05 PM
Cheering sister

Thanks Steve for another wonderful article.  I've known Wayne for all his years (I'm his older sister--and admittedly biased.)  Even as a child he was  always  passionate about horses, worked hard with honesty and integrity in his endeavors. Some kudos should go to our parents who taught us organization, the importance of education, and to always do your very best.  Their support was always there.  His brother and I are no slouches either--we're also in Halls of Fame! Wayne keep on having fun playing with the horses!

28 Aug 2013 1:24 PM
Coldfacts

MemoriesofPuchi,

I expected some negative responses to some of the issues raised regarding the HOF trainer. I welcome opposing views but take exception to the fact that if one is not a HOF trainer one cannot be knowledgeable about the equipment used by equine athletes.

Did Hall Of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells ever play a single NFL game? He became a successful coach.

Before I address your question, it must be noted that I have also questioned the excessive use of the figure eight bit by Mr. Pletcher. He is regarded as God’s gift to racing.

Now back to Mr. Lukas. After Optimizer finished 1st and 2nd in his first two starts which were on turf. Mr. Lukas repeatedly specified that Optimizer was a dirt horse.

Nine of his next  10 starts were on dirt and one on synthetic.  Despite the fact that the colt was not being competitive on dirt, the HOF Mr. Lukas persisted with entering him in races on the surface. Of the 9 dirt races he contest he recorded one top 3 finish and was off the board in the reminder.

Optimizer was eventually returned to turf were he has to date  contested 16 races with 5 victories and five other top 3 finishes.  Optimizer is yet to win a race dirt.

And what is the moral of the above story?  Trainers can be wrong even HOF ones.

“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

The moment the colt was returned to his preferred surface he resumed his competitiveness. Was he a dirt horse?

Do Trainers in Europe and other parts of the world run every horse in their stables in blinkers form their debut races? Will the blinker be replace for WTC next start?

The head gear is overused in America and in many instances it is unnecessary.

28 Aug 2013 1:27 PM
steve from st louis

When he was on top of the racing world, no one was more despised within his profession than D. Wayne. He made popular the shipping around the country with well-placed horses (remember my condition book mention?)to grab a local stakes and then leave town with the black-type and the loot.

All Todd Pletcher is doing these days is mimicking Lukas' script.

It was easy at first to be leary of Lukas because of his quarter-horse background and then his "Have Stable, Will Travel" calling cards. Mostly trainers were just plain jealous of Lukas.

I always compared Lukas'later-day training to that of Jack Van Berg, two Hall of Famers who stopped getting the top-quality horses they deserved. No one deserves more from the game than the two who gave so much to the game, Lukas and Van Berg. Here's a toast to them both!

28 Aug 2013 1:37 PM
ksweatman9

For a man with a quirky sense of humor, he's no joke when it comes to the ponies. I think he may still have a derby win under his belt. As far as the derby is concerned, Zenyatta's Tapit colt has winner written all over him. I don't know why, but I've got a gut feeling about this colt. I can't wait to see how he does on the track.

28 Aug 2013 2:50 PM
Jean in Chicago

Dr. D,

Have nice rest and pick up a shell on the beach for me.  We don't get many along the shore of Lake Michigan.  Take care and remember we love you.  Your comments to Laura are very sensitive and caring.

28 Aug 2013 4:23 PM
Jean in Chicago

Ted from LA,

Sometime you'll have to teach me the trick of getting into boxes that aren't yours.  I'm sorry to say that I'm now too old to think that batting my eyelashes will work.

28 Aug 2013 4:29 PM
ksweatman9

Horse flesh pays the price for success in this sport. If you make it to the top, chances are you've made some unpopular decisions with horse lovers. I certainly didn't condone alot of Lucas's strategic moves. In fact, just as recent as last year, I thought it was ignorant to push Optimizer through all 3 legs of the triple crown given the fact he was a grass horse and he wasn't showing anything in the triple crown races. Two flops and then the grueling Belmont. I mean, who does that? Luckily, the horse was tough enough to bounce back. Perhaps Lucas was counting on that. He does know his horses, even though I question whether he has always put the welfare of his trainees first. I'm a hopeless horse lover so I wouldn't get to first base in this game. No one is all good nor is anyone all bad. We all have faults, only animals are perfect. Yes God, I did say that. Anyway, I'm happy Lucas is having a few more glory days before he calls it quits. He has earned it.

28 Aug 2013 6:40 PM
Coldfacts

ksweatman9,

"As far as the derby is concerned, Zenyatta's Tapit colt has winner written all over him."

Let me see, which Derby winner  was produced by a HOY mare? Cannot fine one.

Which Derby winner was sired by a stallion that covers 200 mares per year. Cannot find one.

History is significantly against this colt being a Derby winner.

28 Aug 2013 6:44 PM
ksweatman9

Coldfacts, I knew someone would say that. I said it myself, but this game is about the impossible and the unexpected, dreams and miracles, my friend. It's the sport of kings and I like that little red colt.

28 Aug 2013 9:32 PM
trackjack

Steve, thanks for another great wrap-up.  D. Wayne deserves all the credit for getting WTC to this point.  I was at the rail, a foul shot from the finish line, and although I had Palice Malice, Will Take Charge was the best looking horse in the post parade.  He was calm yet on his toes, full of himself...coulda, shoulda.  Congrats to the Lukas team.

The most touching scene from my vantage point was watching Jen Patterson go up to Orb on his return and give him a few strong pats on the neck with "Good job".  She loves her charge.

IMO Mike Smith, after that break, should have put PM closer to the field as the horse looked very uncomfortable where he was at.  With the slow fractions and speed dominating all day, Mike had the opportunity to move him up on the backside, but waited.  The way he closed, if he would have been closer, he would have won by daylight.

Linda in Texas,

Never made it to Hattie's.  Stayed at The Post both evenings after the races.  Enjoyed the experience.  With the Travers checked off my bucket list, if I return it will be on a Labor day weekend, the best time to visit Saratoga.

Ted from LA,

I swear I saw you at The Post bar after the Travers buying shots for everyone and putting it on D. Wayne's account.  Was that you?

Dr. D,

Enjoy your time away.  They'll let you bring in your own ice tea.  Half spring water and half Woodford Reserve is the right mix.  Enjoy and get well soon!

29 Aug 2013 7:46 AM
TerriZ

What a terrific article about a legendary trainer written by a legendary journalist.

I hope that you will consider writing a book with stories, as told by Lukas, about the races, backside, owners, and outstanding horses that he has trained.    There could be chapter or perhaps another book about Secretariat's girls:  Terlingua and Lady's Secret.

Lukas has said that Terlingua was so dominant a mare, that all of her progeny have a lot of her characteristics. I think her quirky personality, talent, looks, and energy can be seen even in the 3rd and 4th generation that followed. Horses like Shackleford, It's Tricky, Blue Grass Cat, and Sassy Image have so much of Terlingua in them.

Lukas used to wash down Terlingua himself and used Breck shampoo on her. He knew how to pamper a queen.

29 Aug 2013 9:21 AM
TerriZ

ksweatman9 and Coldfacts, history is meant to be made. One never knows.

However, Z13, has that look of eagles in his eye shared by Secretariat and Smarty Jones.

I am not an expert on conformation, horse racing or pedigree by any means. However, I do get a certain feeling about horses who might have some talent.

And I have been lucky enough to get that stare by Awesome Feather that went right through me in the paddock at Calder.

We shall see.

29 Aug 2013 9:29 AM
Bill Two

Great story about a man who has experienced the highest highs and some of the lowest lows a person can.  Lukas is really hard to handicap - a lot of his horses win when least expected- and one in particular that comes to mind in Commendable in the Belmont.  To this day I wouldn't bet that horse with your money.  He certainly does have a way with animals.  Another thing is he's been the subject of more hearsay evidence than just anyone you can think of.  I think a lot of it is just plain jealously because I don't ever remember him being charged with any serious drug offenses or anything else.  Love him or hate him he is undeniably one of the greats.

29 Aug 2013 1:25 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Nice article on Mr. Lukas, Steve.  Congratulations to him on Will Take Charge's Travers win.  Mr. Lukas sounds like a man for all seasons, a man's man, classy and knowledgeable.  A man after my own heart who likes the finer things in life and the best of everything.  Now, where can I clone him and get a nice husband like that!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. D.,

Have a nice vacation or sabbatical.  Don't leave us for too long you are a crucial part of the Haskinites and you will be missed.

29 Aug 2013 11:48 PM
Ted from LA

Jean in Chicago and Trackjack, aside from my lover Dr. D, you're two of my favorite people.  Jean, if you're 94 years old, and know how to bat your eyes, you'll sit wherever you wish. Trackjack, I've been to over two decades of Derbies in a row... I have not been to the Travers, which is not good. Do you all know that Dr. D. is going to Chennai to find his inner hairy man?  I can't wait to hear how it goes.

30 Aug 2013 1:09 AM
Jean in Chicago

Ted from LA-I'm still a long way from 94 so I guess I better begin retraining in eyelash batting.  Oh, and go back to wearing low cut tops.  

 My friend Tim once got back stage at a concert by walking up to the security guard and announcing "I'm with Tim".  He was waved through.  Maybe its attitude and body language.

 Don't forget to smuggle those pints to Dr. D.

30 Aug 2013 4:16 PM
Fran Loszynski

If I ever meet Mr. Lukas in person the one thing I will say to him is "Thank you for loving Dublin A fleet Alex's son.  You gave us a son of Alex in the Kentucky Derby. Steve , I cried that day when Smarty Jones  son and Alex's son strut side by side in the Kentucky Derby. Mr. Lukas. Thank you for recognizing  an awesome racehorse  Dublin.  To me this will be a  part of your legacy  " the first of Alex's sons in The Kentucky Derby.  God Bless You.

01 Sep 2013 10:58 AM
trackjack

The Legend Continues:

      Happy Birthday D. Wayne!

Congratulations on your Hopeful win with Strong Mandate.  A Tiznow - Clear Mandate by Deputy Minister, this guy is a big Tiznow, stalking style, relentless, wet/fast colt who wants more.  Space his races Wayne, give him time, keep him healthy.  Tiz About Time we have a Tiznow wearing roses.  

02 Sep 2013 5:29 PM
Coldfacts

trackjack,

I am a big fan of Tiznow as well. However, I have concerns regarding the long term soundness of his progencies.

Gemologist was also a big strong Tinzow colt that won the Wood. He broke down in the Derby and flopped badly on his return in  the Haskell and was subsequently retired.

Fury Capcori was another big, fast and promising Tiznow colt that had issues after the Cash Call Futurity. He recently returned and has been doing well.

Mr. Lukas has a tendency to over race his youngsters and I hope this one will be an exception as it appears he did not have the benefits of his dam as she died 11 days after his foaling.

05 Sep 2013 10:39 AM

Recent Posts

Recommended

Video

Social Media

More Blogs

Archives