Lukas, D Wayne

▪ 1996

      In 1995 D. Wayne Lukas made history when he became the first trainer to win thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown with different horses and the first to win five consecutive Triple Crown races. A thoroughbred among trainers, Lukas possessed an unorthodox style, achieving rapid results at the most opportune times. He produced herds of champions, though few that had gone the extra furlong to receive the Horse of the Year award.

      Lukas was born on Sept. 2, 1935, in Antigo, Wis. At the age of eight he was buying, selling, and training horses. He continued training and trading horses while at the University of Wisconsin, where he received a master's degree in 1961, and later while coaching high-school basketball throughout the 1960s. Lukas began training quarter horses full-time in 1967 and won 73 races in 1970. In 1975 his 150 victories doubled the record for most quarter horse wins in a year by a trainer. He produced 23 champions in 1976-77 and captured all six major California stakes of $100,000 or more for three consecutive years (1975-77).

      Lukas began training thoroughbreds full-time in 1978. He led the nation's trainers in earnings for eight consecutive years (1983-90). While setting a record with 92 stakes winners in 1987, he became the first trainer in history to amass more purse earnings than the nation's leading jockey. His horses won $17.8 million in 1988, more than double the amount ever won in a single year by any other trainer. Lady's Secret earned 1986 Horse of the Year, as did Criminal Type in 1990. Lukas won the Eclipse Award as the nation's best trainer for three consecutive years (1985-87). He held the Breeder's Cup record with 12 wins. In 1988 Winning Colors gave Lukas his first Kentucky Derby victory. She was only the third filly in history to claim that jewel.

      Before rewriting the record books again in 1995, Lukas himself might have considered retiring. He was not winning as he once did and was stung by criticism that he was causing his horses to break down by running them too frequently. His financial empire, moreover, unraveled when investors backed off in 1989, and he lost millions of dollars in 1991 with the bankruptcy of Calumet Farms. Probably the heaviest blow came in December 1993 when his son and chief assistant, Jeff Lukas, was knocked comatose and nearly killed by the rogue horse Tabasco Cat.

      Possibly only the eccentric and controversial Lukas would have cajoled that renegade horse into a Triple Crown champion. Tabasco Cat took both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1994, pulling Lukas out of a 2 1/2-year slump. He added to his legendary status in 1995 when Thunder Gulch claimed victory in both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes and Timber Country took the Preakness. Thunder Gulch, however, lost his bid to be named Horse of the Year when he fractured a cannon bone in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes and could not run in the Breeder's Cup. (DANIEL LATHAM)

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Universalium. 2010.

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