Ever the Coach, Lukas Still Winning at the Spa

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.- No, trainer D. Wayne Lukas did not cash a ticket on Perplexed ( Maimonides )’ s $232.50 stunner Monday at Saratoga Race Course.

” We didn’t bet ,” Lukas said, chuckling, Wednesday morning in its term of office between defines at the Oklahoma training track.

While he did not suppose the 3-year-old Zayat Stables homebred deserved to 115 -1, Lukas was not expecting the colt to win the maiden claimer on the sloppy, sealed way in his 10 th career start. Perplexed persisted under apprentice Luis Reyes giving Lukas, 81, his second victory of the 2017 Saratoga season. He picked up his first on Saturday with the 2-year-old TDN Rising StarA Sporting Chance( Tiznow) breaking his maiden as the second choice in the wagering. Sporting Chance, owned by William Mack and Robert Baker, is headed to the GI Hopeful S. on Sept. 4, the final day of the meet.

Lukas believes that Perplexed’s price was the highest of his Hall of Fame career. Equibase stats, can be found at Jan. 1, 1995, show that it is Lukas’s top payoff and the highest at Saratoga since that date. However, it ranks only 98 th nationally during those 22 1/2 seasons.

Even though Perplexed had been beaten a total of 20 1/4 durations in his last two starts at Churchill Downs, Lukas said he was surprised by the odds that he saw on the tote committee prior to the first race of the day.

” We remarked about it ,” he told.” In the post parade, I said,’ look at this he’s jumping up to 80 -1 already .’ I turned to friends of the Zayats, who were standing there next to us, and said,’ He’s not that bad. He’s training excellent. He’s liable to pull this off .’ We weren’t going to bet him or anything, but we felt like we were going to be perhaps second or third or fourth .”

To gain every advantage with Perplexed, Lukas devoted the mount to Reyes, a seven-pound apprentice. Reyes, who began riding in the U.S. in January, delivered and earned his 17 th career victory.

Lukas left teach and coaching basketball behind to concentrate on train. He won his first race at Saratoga Race Course with Tartan Farms’s Dr. Patches on Aug. 26, 1978. He has been a regular at the Spa since 1984 and has won the training title six days. Barn 83, the farthest from the paddock and the finish line on the main way, has been his base at Saratoga for about 30 years. During the height of his distinguished career, Lukas had divisions based at ways across the country. As he approaches his 82 nd birthday on Sept. 2, Lukas is still very enthusiastic and active with a 30 -horse stable that he runs at Oaklawn Park in Hot spring, Arkansas, the Kentucky tracks and Saratoga.

” I like it up here. It’s such a fiscal massacre and we accept that ,” he told, laughter again as he dusted off an old line.” First of all, we rent a house for our help. If they rented in the community their paycheck would be gone. We subsidize them. We’ve got a nice house, but they rob us, too.

” We’re so far in the hole when we run the first pony that if we won the Travers, the Hopeful and the Alabama, we’d likely break even .”

Lukas glanced at his wife, Laurie, who was putting on her helmet to go out with the next set.

” We perfectly love it ,” he told.” We come up here and do the charity things .”

Lukas has won the Hopeful a record seven times, the last two with colts owned by his longtime clients, Mack and Baker: Strong Mandate( Tiznow, 2013) and Dublin( Afleet Alex, 2009 ). A Sporting ChanceA was bought on behalf of the members of that duo for $575,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale.

” He was my No. 1 pick when we looked at 3,000 head at the Keeneland sale ,” Lukas said.” I’m not saying that merely because he won, but he was No. 1. I was afraid my guys might even pull up a little bit when we got north of $500,000, but the latter are game. He’s absolutely a knockout-looking pony, too. I liked his pedigree, being a Candy Ride( Arg) mare and everything.

” He should have won his first out, but “youve never” know when you’re being blessed. It might have been good that he didn’t get his first win. He got second. Got a little tired. That was for $46,700[ at Churchill Downs ]. Comes up here and and runnings for $83,000. He was set up with a race under his belt. When he ran in the maiden race here, the rest were all first-time starters .”

In September 2015, about three weeks after his 80 th birthday, Lukas encountered some life-threatening heart issues caused by blockages. He was treated and very quickly returned to work. Lukas was up on his horse as usual Wednesday and said he is in good health. Through the years he said he had talked with Hall of Fame trainers Woody Stephens, Charlie Whittingham, Laz Barrera and Ron McAnally about aging and working.

” When you get older the perception in racing is that maybe you don’t have it any more ,” he said.” The truth of it is, there is no how-to book. If you’re mentally sharp and your health is good, you should be a hell of a lot better than the guy who is 35 because you’ve seen it all. It’s a trial-and-error business. It really is. There is no place to look up’ what do you do with this or that, a horse is running out or bolt up in the gate .’ You have to have those experiences. The thing that has made my deputies so effective is my coaching background. I can’t help myself, I maintain teaching. Whereas Charlie Whittinghham told me,’ Hell, I haven’t got time to explain all that. Tell them to watch and they’ll get onto down.’

” But if you’ve ever taught or coached you can’t help yourself. If I find Bill Mott’s ponies doing something wrong, I’m over there coaching Bill Mott .”

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