Trainer Lukas hopes to add to his record 18 Breeders' Cup wins
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) -- D. Wayne Lukas, a high-school basketball coach in Wisconsin before turning to training horses, is well-versed in the old cliche that records are made to be broken.
The Hall of Famer knows that his Breeders' Cup records will someday fall, even though he has set the bar pretty high.
The 77-year-old Lukas has won 18 Breeders' Cup races, double the total of Shug McGaughey, his closest pursuer. His horses have won over $20 million in the season-ending championships. Bill Mott is next with $14.4 million.
"It's going to be awhile, but I'm sure they'll break it with the strength that guys like (Bob) Baffert and Todd (Pletcher) are developing," Lukas said. "That's sports. There are always the young guns that come by."
Lukas hasn't surrendered yet. He has four horses running this weekend in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita and would love to lift his marks further out of reach.
Lukas compiled most of his Breeders' Cup wins back in the era when only seven or eight races were contested on one day. It has since expanded to 15 races over two days, creating greater opportunities for trainers to compile wins and bank earnings.
As a target, Lukas has slowed down, no longer blessed with the horsepower he once commanded. His last Breeders' Cup winner was Folklore in the 2005 Juvenile Fillies.
But he hasn't stopped trying. The four runners this year are his most since saddling six in 2000.
"I feel a certain amount of excitement this year that I didn't feel before" Lukas said. "I still have the passion for it. I haven't lost the desire to get up every morning and train these better horses. I've always thrived on being in the main arena. I love the feel of competing against the best. I still get a kick out of the third race on Wednesday, but these races are special."
His best chance to snare another Breeders' Cup win might be Broken Spell, 20-1 in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Friday. She rallied from 13th to get second in her latest start, getting beaten by one length in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.
"She's so precocious, that if they have a good pace up front, she'll be running at the end," Lukas said. "She doesn't have any bad days training. Every single day she goes out and impresses you. I just wish the race was a little bit longer."
Lukas has Optimizer, 20-1, in the $3 million Turf on Saturday over the surface the 3-year-old colt favors. He was badly outrun in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Optimizer has been much sharper, winning his last two races, since switching back to grass.
"We knew that was where he belonged," Lukas said. "The owner (Bluegrass Hall) wanted to run in the Triple Crown and he was only one with any quality in the barn that we could do that with. We knew every time we ran him that he needed turf."
His other two shots are Hamazing Destiny, 12-1 in the $1.5 million Sprint on Saturday, and Hightail, 8-1 in Friday's $500,000 Juvenile Sprint.
After all these years, the prospect of another Breeders' Cup triumph keeps Lukas going. So does the promise of a possible star on the horizon.
Lukas is enthused about Titletown Five, a 2-year-old who got his first win by a commanding nine lengths last weekend at Churchill Downs. The colt has strong Green Bay Packer ties, being owned by former stars Paul Hornung, Willie Davis and executive committee member Ed Martin.
"He's pretty nice," Lukas said. "They may be closing in us, but we're not going away. We might get another one or two, and make that bar a little higher."
NOTES: The final contingent of Breeders' Cup horses touched down at noon at the Ontario, Calif., airport and were vanned to Santa Anita. The flight that originated in New York and stopped in Kentucky to pick up horses was originally scheduled for Tuesday but had to be postponed due to the Hurricane Sandy.